Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

How will the 49ers receiving corps fare in 2022?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jun 3, 2022 at 10:30 AM--

After a season where the 49ers had veterans Travis Benjamin and Trent Sherfield on the field for several snaps, the organization sought to address their receiver depth via free agency and the draft.

The 49ers signed former Pittsburgh Steeler Ray-Ray McCloud to a two-year deal, while adding SMU speedster Danny Gray in the third round of the NFL draft.

With increased depths receiver, how will the 49ers receiving corps fare in 2022?

Battle in the Slot?

Last season, after serving as the backup to veteran Mohammed Sanu for the first half of the season, then second-year receiver Jauan Jennings flourished, catching 24 passes for 282 yards and five touchdowns.

More importantly, Jennings was Mr. Reliable for the 49ers, catching 10 of 11 passes for 133 yards and eight first downs on third-down plays.

With a first-year starter at quarterback, I believe Jennings currently is the favorite to start in the slot
given his familiarity with the offense, as well as the uniqueness and value of his archetype as a receiver.

However, that unknown will only be figured out during training camp when all three receivers have received the opportunity to grasp the offense and develop a rapport with Trey Lance.

Regardless of who starts, all three receivers should receive playing time in 2022.

Gray's speed has already been on display at San Francisco's organized team activities(OTAs), with defensive backs Charvarius Ward and Jimmie Ward marveling about the rookie's legs this past week.

Gray provides the 49ers with their first pure deep threat since Marquise Goodwin, which should be very handy in accordance to Trey Lance's skillset.

On the other hand, McCloud has already been a mainstay at practice, having flashed during Wednesday's OTA practice, per Sports Illustrated's Grant Cohn.

"[McCloud] caught a team-high 4 passes and received a team-high 6 targets. McCloud has been getting tons of action in OTAs. He seems to be the check-down option on lots of plays."

While McCloud appeared to be primarily a special-teams addition, the 25-year old player has shown flashes of the offensive skillset that was hindered in Pittsburgh by an aging Ben Roethlisberger'a arm.

Who's the sixth receiver?

Following the offseason additions, there seem to be five locks at the receiver position for the 49ers: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Danny Gray, and Ray-Ray McCloud.

However, there are a multitude of veteran and young options that could solidify the sixth receiver spot on the 53-man roster for 2022.

Last year, the 49ers carried six receivers on their 53-man roster, which seems likely this season given the amount of depth at several key positions.

I believe that the decision currently boils down to two players: veteran wideout Malik Turner, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys, and undrafted rookie Tay Martin, formerly of Oklahoma State.

Turner, who is just 26, has experience as both a receiver and a special-teamer.

He has experience with special-teams coordinator Brian Schneider, having played for the current 49ers coach in 2018 and 2019 during their tenures with the Seattle Seahawks.

Turner's special-teams usage has increased from 39% to 59% from 2019 to 2021, indicating his experience at the place which the 49ers looked to improve this offseason.

Additionally, Turner has been a productive receiver before, having caught 15 passes for 245 yards in 2019.

Martin, subsequently, exploded on the scene in 2021, breaking the 1,000-yard barrier for Oklahoma State, and showcasing reliable hands during his collegiate career.

While Martin doesn't possess elite deep speed, he's an effective route-runner who could be seen as another third-down threat for Trey Lance in the short and intermediate field.

Other options include veterans Marcus Johnson and KeeSean Johnson, and young wideouts Taysir Mack and Austin Mack.

Marcus Johnson, 27, has been a receiving threat previously in his career, catching 17 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns in 2019, while catching 14 passes for 255 yards in 2020 while playing for the Indianapolis Colts.

KeeSean Johnson was signed to a reserve/futures contract early in the offseason, and is only 25, however; he lacks NFL special-teams experience, which may be valuable at the sixth receiver spot for the 49ers.

Taysir Mack and Austin Mack could be potential practice-squad candidates, given the depth at the position and the youth of the players.

Of course, much is subject to change, as the off-season will dictate which players can flash with the opportunity, as well as who can effectively play special teams when needed.
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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