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49ers mailbag: Predicting Ricky Pearsall’s rank among SF wideouts, UDFA roster chances, Jauan Jennings’ minicamp status

Marc Adams
May 29, 2024 at 11:04 AM

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The San Francisco 49ers are in the second week of OTAs (organized team activities). Next week, the team will take part in its mandatory minicamp. Then comes the long month and a half of waiting until training camp.

But we have you covered. We'll be here with any breaking news and plenty of other stories about the 49ers. For now, here's the latest edition of the 49ers Webzone Mailbag. Let's take a look inside and see what's on your mind.

Where will Ricky Pearsall rank among the 49ers wideouts in receiving yards this season? - Dave B.

Ricky Pearsall will rank fourth among the wide receivers, after Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and Jauan Jennings, in receiving yards. Of course, he'll also rank behind TE George Kittle and RB Christian McCaffrey. I put Pearsall fourth among wide receivers, but a lot of that depends on Jennings (more on him later). But we all know Kyle Shanahan doesn't lean on rookies that much, and Jennings is an elite blocker. So Pearsall isn't guaranteed to play ahead of Jennings in 2024.

In your estimation, how well-stocked is this 49ers roster in this offseason? What positions, if any, could use some depth prior to training camp? - Ed H.

The 49ers' roster is still well-stocked. This is the most talented team in the NFL. They're currently favored in each of their regular season games. They may be better in 2024 than in 2023, even if their record isn't as good as last season.

Offensive tackle concerns me. If Trent Williams goes down for any considerable amount of time, the 49ers can still win games, but they will struggle in the postseason, when defenses get tougher. On defense, if Talanoa Hufanga or Dre Greenlaw fail to return, or return to their pre-injury production level, then those positions (linebacker and safety) might be a little concerning.

As a hypothetical, let's assume Huf is either not healthy to start or severely underperforming. How does this change the defensive strategy and roster overall, especially considering Hufanga was critical to stopping the run? - Victor V.

If that happens, second-year safety Ji'Ayir Brown and rookie Malik Mustapha will have even more pressure on their shoulders. Brown showed some playmaking ability, but he also made some rookie mistakes, as you might figure he would. Mustapha should be an effective run-stopper like Hufanga has been.

I'm not sure Hufanga's situation will have much impact on the defensive strategy. The 49ers draft players who fit their system, so I wouldn't expect big schematic changes. But it will have an impact on the depth of the position, as well as the level of experience at safety if Hufanga is unable to play.

Which UDFA has the best chance to make the final 53 and why? - Uncle Salty

Let me give you my top three undrafted rookie free agents with the best chance to make the team:

  1. DL Evan Anderson: Anderson is huge (6'3, 326 lbs.), and the 49ers paid him a lot of money ($280,000 total guaranteed money), compared with most undrafted rookies.
  2. C Drake Nugent: Nugent is a National Champion who could factor in at center at some point. And with starting center Jake Brendel currently being out, Nugent has a chance to get the attention of his coaches.
  3. TE Mason Pline: The 6'6 former basketball player has a lot of catching up to do. He's still relatively new at football. But there isn't much behind Kittle, except for a couple of second-year tight ends. Of those, Brayden Willis played some last season, but Cam Latu missed his entire rookie season with an injury.

Former KNBR host, Larry Krueger, believes QB Tanner Mordecai will end up being the number two quarterback, and that RB Cody Schrader will beat out Isaac Guerendo, who was drafted in the 4th round. I think it will be difficult for either of those players to make the 53-man roster. And it's also going to be very difficult for the other three I listed to make it. I could easily be talked into adding Schrader to my list and removing Pline. But I'd love to see the tight end make the team.

Whose job is in jeopardy this season? - David B.

This is an interesting question. I'll name a coach and a player whose job may be in jeopardy in 2024.

The coach is obvious—that would be Defensive Coordinator Nick Sorensen. Ask Steve Wilks about that. If the 49ers defense doesn't bounce back and have a strong season, Sorensen could be one-and-done like Wilks. This became especially true when the 49ers hired Brandon Staley as the Assistant Head Coach/Defense. No one is entirely sure what that title means, but Staley could be his replacement if Sorensen falters.

Which player's job is in jeopardy in 2024? I'll say Drake Jackson. If not Jackson, Ambry Thomas, or Spencer Burford.

What is your take on that Michigan center who went undrafted to the 49ers? Do you think he can make the team? Can he become a starter? - Cam

Cam is asking about Nugent, the undrafted rookie who played for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. I liked this signing, and believe he can be someone who eventually becomes a starter.

Some believed Nugent would be drafted. Daniel Jeremiah, for example, had the former Wolverine listed as his 118th top player. Nugent allowed just one sack in his 375 pass-block snaps in 2023. He's a leader and has been a team captain in the past. Nugent is a hard worker and, by all accounts, is very bright.

Nugent was one of the nation's top centers and was named first-team All-Big-10. I'm hopeful he can crack the starting lineup someday.

Will Danny Gray make the 49ers roster? - Kate F.

That's up to Danny Gray. The 49ers would love for Gray to step up and make it impossible for them to leave him off the roster. But so far, Gray hasn't shown that he will step up. He needs to run better routes, stop dropping passes, and learn to block in the run game. And he needs to stay healthy. He missed last season with an injury. If he can do those things, he has the speed and physical tools to be a dangerous weapon for Shanahan.

With Ronnie Bell, a second-year wide receiver, veterans Trent Taylor and Chris Conley, and two drafted rookies in Pearsall and Jacob Cowing, the competition will be tight. Gray may not make the team unless he can show that he is an upgrade over some of the other wideouts.

Will Jauan Jennings report to mandatory minicamp next week? - Dave B.

Earlier on Wednesday, I wrote that my best guess is that Jennings will not show up for the minicamp unless the reason he has missed OTAs isn't contract-related. Since he has arrived to the 49ers facility, we can assume his absence last week was not contract-related. In fact, Jennings has reportedly agreed to an extension. So yes, Jennings will be at minicamp next week.

That's all we have this week. We'll be back in the next week or two with a new edition of the 49ers Webzone Mailbag. Once training camp begins, we'll be here each week.
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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