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Second-year receiver Danny Gray could be the missing piece for the 49ers

Jun 8, 2023 at 3:11 PM--

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San Francisco 49ers second-year wide receiver Danny Gray hopes to improve from a disappointing rookie season and build upon his improvements from organized team activities (OTAs).

If Gray can get more playing time, his 4.33-second 40-time could be what a high-powered 49ers offense is missing, a receiver that can stretch opposing defenses and free up Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, arguably the best wide receiver duo in the NFL.

At a June 6th press conference, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said the Gray has gotten a lot better from where he left off last season.

"I think Danny learned from his first year, just how long that grind is of a rookie year, just going from the offseason of the combine and all the workouts to getting here and really never stopping," Shanahan said. "We saw him in the offseason have a little different attention to detail, the way he came here in the phase one and two, how he worked to get in shape, and what has allowed him to have a good OTAs and go through a bunch of stuff, which to me, he's finally got in the shape to where he could do everything, and this will really help him for training camp."

Outside Samuel and Aiyuk, the 49ers still have playmakers at their offensive skilled positions, including All-Pro tight end George Kittle, All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, and Elijah Mitchell.

49ers fans were excited to see Gray line up alongside Samuel and Aiyuk since catching a 76-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Trey Lance in the 2022, August 12th preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. However, Gray ended his rookie season with just one reception for 10 yards on seven targets through 13 games.

The 49ers drafted Gray in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He compiled 1,251 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns in his two years with the SMU Mustangs.

Samuel, who spoke with the media on June 6th, shared some of the lessons Gray needed to learn and the improvements he's been showing during the spring.

"We drafted him in the third round, so we expect him to play," Samuel said. "It's a lot of pressure, but just seeing him these past couple of weeks, you can tell that he's learned a lot. He still has minimal mistakes here and there, but he's done a good job of minimizing those and putting himself in a position to play."

In a June 5th interview with NBC Sports Bay Area insider Matt Maiocco, 49ers wide receiver coach Leonard Hankerson said Gray has the ability to be a heck of a football player.

"The main thing with him is he's just got to continue to grow, which he has made tremendous strides so far within a year, and he has taken that step," Hankerson said. "One thing you can't take away from him is his work ethic. He works hard. He competes every single day. Now, it is about how consistent can he be every single day. Can you have the same mindset to go out there, and no matter if it is Monday or no matter if it is Sunday, are we going to do it the same exact way every single time between the white lines?

"Younger guys, that's what they have to realize, and not think that because I did it one day, that's enough. You've got to do it every day."

Outside of Aiyuk and Samuel, Gray will compete for playing time against eight other receivers on the 49ers roster, including Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, Chris Conley, Willie Sneed IV, and rookie Ronnie Bell.
  • Written by:
    Sports has been my first love since I was 12 years old. At one point I wanted to play football professionally. I started to take photography as a hobby in my teenage years but this was when I followed sports. I started to listen to sports radio, I found my true calling and it was to be a sports talk show host. Though I follow football and basketball, I started to have a new love of cultures around the world. After graduating from San Antonio College in 2018, I worked for the Castroville News Bulletin before going to A&M San Antonio to get my communications degree. Since I have written for the Ranger of San Antonio College, the News Bulletin and the Mesquite of Texas A&M San Antonio, I met many people and went to a lot of events. My major milestone was being in the press box of the San Antonio Commanders game for the Mesquite and being apart of a press conference with the Medina County Sheriff and other local news outlets. When I am not doing anything, I like to watch old cartoons on the DC Universe, play video games such as Mega Man and the Mass Effect series. I have also created Youtube channel called "Anger Management" with my friend Aaron Donnell.


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