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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Why calls Jauan Jennings the 49ers’ most underappreciated player

May 31, 2024 at 4:40 PM

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Tom Blair of NFL Media recently assessed each NFC roster to identify the most underappreciated player for each team, compiling the findings in a feature for For the San Francisco 49ers, Jauan Jennings earned this distinction. The wide receiver is fresh off signing a new contract extension.

Casual NFL fans might look at Jennings' career statistics and question why the veteran wideout deserves this recognition. After all, his 416 receiving yards in 2022 marked a career-high, and he has only seven regular-season touchdowns to his name. However, dedicated 49ers fans understand Jennings' invaluable contribution to the offense—as does Blair.

"San Francisco's been in three straight NFC title games and just lost the Super Bowl -- good luck finding an underappreciated 49er," Blair wrote. "In fact, Jennings himself was personally responsible for some of the team's biggest moments on the game's biggest stage in February. He also just got paid, landing a two-year deal with $10.5 million guaranteed, which is more than he would have received had he signed the second-round tender assigned to him as a restricted free agent.

"Jennings is far from the most famous Niners receiver, though, easily ranking behind Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and probably even rookie Ricky Pearsall in name recognition -- except for among those who thrill to clips of receivers blocking, which, let's be honest, should be everyone. When you're a third or fourth receiver who earns praise from George Kittle (George Kittle!) for your lack of fear, you belong on this list."

Fans might remember Jennings' standout play from last season's playoff battle against the Green Bay Packers when he drove cornerback Carrington Valentine to the Gatorade coolers on the Packers sideline, ensuring he didn't impact a pivotal play that resulted in a huge catch and run by Kittle. On the next play, 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey scored on a 39-yard touchdown run.

"I think every single person in NFL that watches tape, every general manager, every scout, anybody that watches tape, they look at Jauan's film, they're like, 'Holy cow, this guy is one of one,'" Kittle told reporters on Wednesday. "His mindset and his attitude when he's on a football field is completely different. ... He just is very violent in the way that he plays the game, which you don't see in all receivers.

"He will hit defensive ends as hard as he can. He'll hit linebackers as hard as he can. He's not scared of anything. And if you need him to win on a one-on-one rep, he's going to win on that one-on-one rep. He's got incredibly strong hands."

Of his 29 receptions last season, including the playoffs, Jennings converted 20 into first downs. He consistently comes up big when the 49ers need him most, earning him the nickname "Third and Jauan." As noted by Blair, Jennings scored a receiving touchdown and even threw a touchdown pass in this past Super Bowl. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for the Niners to overcome Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Kittle understands that having teammates like Jennings, who give maximum effort no matter the assignment, is crucial for the 49ers' championship aspirations.

"That's someone you want to reward because he's just going to keep bringing that every single day," Kittle added, "and he's just going to raise the standard of everybody around him. So when you have a guy like that, that does everything, it's great for us."

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