Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Is 49ers rookie WR Danny Gray a unicorn?

May 17, 2022 at 9:22 AM--

Before you all go crazy, I'm not saying Danny Gray will be the number one wide receiver for the 49ers, especially as a rookie. However, I am saying that Danny Gray has the speed to take the top off the defense, allowing Trey Lance & Co. to get the ball downfield more. I can think of a few reasons why having a speed guy like Gray helps the 49ers tremendously this season.

The first reason is matchups. As a rookie, Danny Gray shouldn't be receiving double coverage from the defense. There will likely be a safety over the top in zone coverage, but which receiver would that safety be more liable to help out in coverage on—Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, or Danny Gray? In man coverage, there aren't many 4.3-speed defensive backs that would be able to keep up with Gray. The fastest cornerback in the NFC is Marco Wilson out of Arizona, and he runs a 4.37.

If Trey Lance can recognize man coverage on Gray, expect Lance to let it rip in Gray's direction. Gray, out of SMU, ran a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash, ranking fourth out of the 2022 wide receiving prospects. The 49ers tried this last season by adding Travis Benjamin, but that was an epic fail. During Gray's presser, he was asked what most exemplifies him as a player.

"I'm going deep. I'm taking the top off the defense," he responded.

The second reason is his inner "dog". I'm not sure what type of dog Gray is, but head coach Kyle Shanahan may have himself a rare breed with the speedy rookie receiver. After studying and watching college films on Gray, he's not afraid to go across the middle of the field. Gray had 803 yards receiving in 2021 at SMU, and 420 of those yards came after the catch. Shanahan gets another critical piece for his wide receiving corps.

I do expect Gray to work his way up the depth chart. The 49ers currently have Deebo Samuel, Brando Aiyuk, and Jauan Jennings as their one, two, and three wide receivers. They also signed several wide receivers in free agency, including Ray-Ray McCloud on a two-year $10.4 million deal. Gray had seven drops in 2021, so if he wants to impress his coaches, he must be able to catch, especially going across the middle of the field. He will provide the 49ers with grit and a tough mentality.

Speaking of mentality, that's the third reason. Gray's mindset is only for the strong. At the young age of five, he was taught to go out and be the toughest guy on the field. He recently shared the story of getting a bloody nose at the age of five and being told by his coach (who happened to be his uncle) to "blow it out" and get back on the field. This mindset channels the inner dog of Gray.

The 49ers already have a bully in Deebo, and now they're getting another tough, physical player in Gray. The rookie was asked how long it would take him to get accustomed to the system.

"Not long," Gray said. "Not long if I just do what I came here to do, do my job, study the playbook, stay in the film room, it's not gonna take me long."

This kid wants to play football, and the only way he will get his chance is by leaning in to the traits that got him drafted.

It is easier said than done, and Danny Gray has a lot to prove—to himself, his coaches, and his team. Gray has the physical and mental attributes to be a successful wide receiver in this league. General manager John Lynch and Shanahan may have stolen the draft with Gray. The young receiver currently doesn't have a nickname, but I'm confident that he will be granted one after his first successful play in the NFL.

How will the 49ers utilize Gray? According to Gray, he's willing to be used in any way his team needs. We will have to wait and see at organized team activities, which begin on May 23.
  • Written by:
    Wayne Breezie is a 49ers content creator. He had his first guest appearance on Ronbosports in 2012. He began writing for a Facebook group called the League of the 49ers. Next, he began writing for Nothing But Niners in 2017. In 2018, Wayne Breezie made his debut on YouTube’s Nothing But Niners show. In 2019, he started his podcast called Nitty Gritty Niners. After putting the pen down for several years, Breezie saw an opportunity to write for His first published article was in January of 2022 with 49ersCap, and he currently writes and produces weekly podcasts.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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