What Is The Invisible Men Series?
Welcome along to the 49ers Edition of the ‘Invisible Men Series’. Within this feature we’ll take an in-depth look at some of the unsung heroes within every teams roster.
We’re all familiar with the men under center, star wideouts along with the outspoken cornerbacks who proclaim to be the best in the business, every single off-season. But what about that chain mover on third down? The specialist that can flip the field position with a swing of the leg? How about the run stuffing two down lineman, or the situational pass rusher?
The list is endless and whilst the diehard fans among us appreciate the limited, yet vital role these players play. Its time to enlighten those people encapsulated with showering praise on the franchise quarterback. Wake up! As without player ‘A’ that quarterback would either be on his back or throwing another errant pass!
Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to the “Invisible Men Series’.
San Francisco 49ers: Jeremy Kerley
Hutto, a small town in Austin Texas where the name Jeremy Kerley resonates deep in the hearts of the local community. Kerley a then young talented quarterback, lead Hutto High School to its first-ever state final championship game. Outside of football, Kerley excelled in athletics, winning silver medals in both the long and triple jump, during a state track meet. However his real love was baseball, featuring at center field and on the mound.
Stanford and the University of Texas recruited Kerley for their respective baseball programs, whilst the University of Oklahoma desired Kerley’s football talent. Football won out and Kerley went on to showcase his talent for TCU and the Hornfrogs.
At 5ft 9″ Kerley lacked the prototypical size to play quarterback and switched to wide receiver, along with returning punts and kickoffs. During his time at TCU, Kerley was named Mountain West Conference special teams player of the year in consecutive seasons.
Scouting report via Ourlads.com ahead of the 2011 draft. (Drafted by the Jets during the fifth round, 153rd overall).
Started 20 games in career. Explosive stop and start quickness. Smaller and slower than he looks on tape. A playermaker in space. Quick in and out of his breaks. Has a burst up-field after the catch. Runs the jailbreak screen like he owns it. Quick feet. Quick reactions. Sudden up-field on bubble screens. Plucks ball away from his body. A slot type receiver with fringe speed. Makes plays in key situations. Separates from defensive backs with his quickness. No hold up on the of scrimmage. Will need pro route and skill development.
During a five-year stint with the New York Jets, Kerley became ‘Mr Third down’ or ‘Mr fair catch’ (during the latter part of his time in New York). A dependable chain mover, with safe reliable pair of hands along with a mental and physical toughness. Unafraid to make those tough contested catches during crossing routes (knowing he’ll get popped).
The receiving numbers put up by Kerley hardly set the pulse racing, but it was his effectiveness to keep a drive alive that made him an effective commodity and key member of the offense. All of which was evident when the Jets signed Kerley to a new 4-year $16m contract ($5.4m guaranteed).
During his time with the Jets, Kerley made 108 first downs from 182 receptions, along with 2225 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. An unsung hero who quietly went about the task in hand among the circus that became the Jets under Rex Ryan.
Limited cap space meant the end for Kerley and the Jets. Free agent Kerley then signed a 1 year deal with the Lions (a move that still baffles me on their part). Only to be traded to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for Brandon Thomas.
Kerley continued his role not only as a chain mover, but as that under the radar guy. A somewhat unsung hero (an invisible man) within a struggling 49ers franchise.
Al Sacco covers the San Francisco 49ers for
@49erswebzone. Al is also a contributor to @Ninerfans. Having endured the 49ers season Al provided us with his assessment on Jeremy Kerley. For more on the 49ers and Al’s work be sure to give him a follow on twitter.
Although he didn’t even join the team until the end of August, Jeremy Kerley was by far and away the best wide receiver the 49ers had in 2016. Excelling at the slot position in Chip Kelly’s offense, Kerley lead the team in targets (115), receptions (64) and receiving yards (667). Those aren’t exactly prolific numbers, but the 2016 49ers were an abysmal passing offense.
While he had a solid season overall. Kerley did much better with Blaine Gabbert under center, than he did with Colin Kaepernick. Kerley averaged 4 catches and 60 yards in five games with Gabbert. Those numbers dropped to 3.4 and 33 with Kaepernick. He scored two of his three touchdowns with Gabbert throwing his way as well.
Regardless of his quarterback, however, Kerley was still clutch all year, as 28.7% of his receptions went for first downs. Kerley is about to be a free agent, and it’ll be interesting to see if the new general manager John Lynch and new head coach Kyle Shanahan will consider bringing him back in the fold. The 49ers desperately need receiver, but the new tandem may want to bring in someone like Taylor Gabriel, who is also a free agent and more familiar with Shanahan’s offense, from his time with the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons.
Featured Image By Jim Goff via flickr.com