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ESPN analyst weighs in on 49ers potentially drafting a wide receiver

Apr 10, 2024 at 7:30 AM

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The San Francisco 49ers will likely add a rookie wide receiver via the draft, and it has nothing to do with Brandon Aiyuk's current contract situation. Deebo Samuel is about as physical a player as you'll find at the position, so wear and tear, along with his significant salary, has to be a concern. Jauan Jennings is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next year.

The 49ers have tried to address the position recently, drafting Ronnie Bell in the seventh round last year and Danny Gray in the third round in 2022. While it's too early to judge Bell, Gray has played only 87 offensive snaps as a pro. His career stat line is unimpressive, recording only one reception for 10 yards on seven targets.

One ESPN analyst and 49ers fan, Matt Miller, admits to being shocked when the team drafted Gray.

"When they drafted Danny Gray in the third round, I'm not gonna lie, that was like my jaw hit the floor," Miller recently told Al Sacco on the 49ers Webzone "No Huddle" podcast. "I couldn't believe they drafted him that early. But it was like, okay, maybe they're looking for a speed guy because that's not really Deebo's game. And Aiyuk is kind of a thicker guy, although a really good vertical player."

Looking to the upcoming draft, what are some options for the 49ers? Miller, like fans, wonders what the team is looking for in a receiver.

"Because we can look at guys like [Texas WR] Xavier Worthy as that stretch-the-field, record-setting speed that could play here," Miller commented. "[South Carolina WR] Xavier Legette is your Deebo Samuel. You know, 6-1, 220, 4.3-speed. He's a bully. Same with [Western Kentucky WR] Malachi Corley. They fit that mold really, really well."

It's tough to predict what the 49ers are looking for without knowing how they view the position in the long term.

"If you're trying to replace Aiyuk, I'm going to lean more toward Xavier Worthy or a [Florida WR] Ricky Pearsall or [Oregon WR] Troy Franklin," Miller said. "If you're starting to think about, okay, maybe Deebo gets beat up a little bit. We want a player that can be kind of like Jauan Jennings, almost like a second Deebo, then I think that changes what you're looking for.

"But it's a stacked receiver class. I think we could see like 16 going the top two rounds, which is insane that we could see that many go. ... Even a receiver at 31, I wouldn't completely turn my nose up at that just because we don't know. We don't know with Aiyuk. I feel like it's (the Aiyuk contract situation) such a similar playbook as to what Deebo did, and Deebo got paid. So, we'll see what happens there. But if the value is there at 31, I think you have to go with the receiver."
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