Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Former first-round picks have a chance to remove the bust label with 49ers

Aug 31, 2020 at 6:00 AM--

On Aug. 27, the San Francisco 49ers signed former Chicago Bear receiver Kevin White, which teams him up with fellow former West Virginia Mountaineer alumni, Tavon Austin. Both players have a chance to resurrect their careers after being drafted high but not playing up to the expectations.

Though they both played for West Virginia, White transfered from Lackawanna College to Morgantown for the 2013 college season, and just after Austin made his jump to the NFL.

With the 49ers coming into training camp, their receiver position was slim due to Emmanuel Sanders signing with the New Orleans Saints. Travis Benjamin, who the 49ers signed during the offseason, decided to opt-out of the season because of COVID-19. Then you have injuries to Deebo Samuel, rookie Brandon Aiyuk, and newly signed J.J. Nelson.

In his two years with the Mountaineers, the JUCO transfer would total 144 receptions, 1,954 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns.

According to the, the draft bio for White reads:

"For the NFL, White is a future No. 1 receiver who could lead a potent passing attack. He has a unique combination of size and speed. White consistently achieved separation for West Virginia, yet he also made contested catches with the strength to outfight defensive backs for the ball. White can get downfield quickly while beating cornerbacks with his speed and burn defenses for long touchdowns. He's too fast for safeties, and corners struggle to run with him as he easily gets separation out of his breaks. White is a deep-threat receiver who has the ability to work all levels of the field."

The profile continues:

"White is dangerous with the ball in his hands with the ability to take a slant to the house with his speed and open-field running skills. He ran a lot of routes that are staples of the West Coast offense but could also fit in a vertical pro-style system. White has solid hands with good body control to work the sidelines. He will be an asset on the back-shoulder throws that are popular in the NFL."

During the 2015 NFL Draft, the former Mountaineer would be in the same draft with other receivers such as Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Breshad Perriman, and Phillip Dorsett.

The Chicago Bears selected White with the seventh overall pick. Throughout his four-year career with the Bears, he would struggle with injuries, landing on the team's physically-unable-to-perform list (PUP).

White also landed on the team's injured reserved list during the 2016 and 17 seasons.

The 2018 season, he played in nine games with four receptions for 92 yards but was inactive in the playoff loss against the Philadelphia Eagles.

During his four-year stay with Chicago, White appeared in 14 games, starting five, and had 25 receptions for 285 yards.

The Bears did not pick up the often-injured receiver's fifth-year option, making him a free agent in 2019. He went on to sign with the Arizona Cardinals but was cut before the start of the season.

With the signing of White, the NFC champion 49ers released former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver, Jaron Brown.

For Austin, he was selected with the eighth pick by the St. Louis Rams during the 2013 NFL Draft.

In his four years with West Virginia, Austin totaled 288 receptions, 3,413 receiving yards, 29 receiving touchdowns, 1,033 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns.

Austin also had four kick returns for touchdowns and one punt returned for a score.

The former Mountaineer was in the same draft as future All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who was drafted by the Houston Texans with the 27th overall pick.

According to SB Nation, the draft bio for Austin read:

"As a senior, Austin was given the Paul Hornung Award. While awards have no relation to future NFL success, the Hornung Award is telling because it's given to the nation's most versatile player. Throughout his West Virginia career, Austin made a name with his versatility. He's a slot receiver who can work in motion to shift the defense. Was lined up at running back in pistol sets. Is used on end arounds and is dangerous in the return game."

The profile continued:

"After the catch, Austin is dangerous. He has incredible start and stop ability with the ball in his hands. His vision after the catch is rare. There aren't many defenders that can catch Austin from behind. His playing speed is legit and he gets up to his top gear in a hurry. Is difficult to jam at the line because his first move is so fast. Because Austin can cut so smoothly, the pace in which he runs his routes makes it difficult for defenders to stick on him."

Austin's best game against the 49ers came in a 27-6 Rams victory during Week 7 in the 2015 season. At the time, the third-year player had 98 receiving yards, a touchdown on the ground, and a rushing score.

After the former Mountaineer spent five years with the NFC division rival, he was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for a sixth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

In his two years with the Cowboys, Austin gained 317 yards and three touchdowns in 21 games. Throughout his seven-year career, Austin has 2,006 receiving yards, 25 total offensive touchdowns, and three punt return touchdowns.

When the wide receiver position was hit with injuries, the 49ers signed the former Ram on Aug. 15. In an Aug. 26th press conference, Austin said the 49ers are on a mission.

"Last year, I wasn't here with them, but I can tell there's still a lot of heartbreak about what happened last year, since they had the game in their hands, and they lost it," Austin told reporters. "The mentality around here is different, so you don't want to be that person to mess that up and slow things up. I think everybody gotta take it serious."

The former first-rounder said he is a fan of quarterback Jimmy Garappolo.

"Just the way how he approaches practice every day, a team leader. Not one of those guys who just walks around and just thinks he's the big shot of the team. He definitely talks to everybody, as I can see, even to the small guys. So I definitely like him."

In an Aug. 25th press conference, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said even though Austin is coming in late to camp and behind the eight ball, he has an opportunity to move around the offense.

"The more he learns it, the more he can get thrown in there at all three of the positions," Shanahan said. "When you have injuries and stuff, that does give you more opportunities at all three spots instead of just one. I think he's getting a lot better at that with more reps, just like all of them are, the more reps that they get. Tavon is a very talented player who moves very well. I think he gets better and better each day for us."

With Kendrick Bourne, Samuel and Aiyuk more than likely locks to make the 53-man roster, the two former Mountaineers will be competing for a roster spot with Dante Pettis, Trent Taylor, and rookie Jauan Jennings. Each of them is reportedly having a good camp.
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