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Power Ranking the 49ers’ 12 Wide Receivers

Nick Newman
Jun 10, 2020 at 6:04 PM

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The 49ers currently have 12 wide receivers on their roster. This is a prediction as to where each receiver will land in the pecking order, as the 2020 season approaches.

#1) Deebo Samuel

Analysis: Deebo Samuel is the clear cut number one receiver. Samuel is coming off a phenomenal rookie season, where he played in 18 of the 49ers' 19 games.

Over the course of those 18 games, Samuel caught 67 balls for 929 yards and three touchdowns. Samuel added 261 yards on the ground and three more touchdowns, on only 20 carries. That amounts to nearly 1,200 yards from scrimmage, and 14 yards per touch.

Those numbers are even more impressive considering that Samuel's first breakout performance didn't come until Week 10, which was the Monday Night Football game against the Seahawks.

Samuel didn't come into his own until the second half of the season. If Samuel plays a full season like he did the back half of last year, the sophomore could be in for a monster season.

The future is bright for Samuel, and he is a lock to make the final 53-man roster.

#2) Kendrick Bourne

Analysis: Entering the fourth year of his career, Kendrick Bourne projects to be the 49ers' starting receiver opposite of Samuel to begin the season.

While he is not the explosive playmaker that Samuel is, Bourne is a steady and reliable chain mover for Jimmy Garoppolo. Bourne has appeared in 46 combined regular and postseason games, and in those games 70 of his 91 catches (77%) have gone for a 1st down or touchdown.

Bourne also flies under the radar of being one of, if not the best red-zone threat on the team. All ten of Bourne's career touchdown receptions have been at or inside the ten-yard line. Bourne has scored more red-zone touchdowns than any other 49er since 2017.

With a bigger role ahead of him, the opportunities will be there for Bourne to have his best season to date. Bourne is a lock to make the final 53-man roster.

RELATED: Why Kendrick Bourne is a roster lock

#3) Brandon Aiyuk

Analysis: The 49ers drafted Brandon Aiyuk 26th overall this past draft. That is 10 spots higher than where they selected Samuel in the 2019 draft (36th overall).

Aiyuk and Samuel have very similar skill sets, where they are both explosive playmakers when the ball is in their hands. Aiyuk is a great fit for the Kyle Shanahan offense, and his ability to turn intermediate routes into big plays caters to the quarterbacking style of Garoppolo.

With the 2020 offseason being tricky due to COVID-19, that minimizes the probability of Aiyuk having a large role in the beginning of the 2020 season. Expect Aiyuk's rookie season to parallel Samuel's rookie season, where his greatest moments and impact will come towards the back half.

Even if Aiyuk's playing time doesn't see a spike until the 2nd half of the season, having his big play ability on the field for any amount of time to begin the year will still be a huge addition to the offense.

Aiyuk is a lock to make the 53-man roster, which should go without saying.

#4) Jalen Hurd

Analysis: Jalen Hurd was drafted in the 3rd round of last year's draft. After a handful of exciting and promising preseason moments, Hurd was placed on IR with a back injury.

The combination of Hurd's size (6'4" 225 lbs), speed, athleticism, versatility and physicality is something we have not seen, and can unlock a new dimension of the Shanahan offense.

What is most intriguing about Hurd is that he was able to play running back at a high level in the SEC, which is largely regarded as the best conference in college football.

Hurd is high up on this list because as long as he's healthy, there is zero doubt that he will make the team. Even if a scenario unfolds where Hurd is healthy but he's outplayed by a handful of other receivers, it is still hard to imagine him not making the team. Hurd will have a chance to prove in the regular season why he was drafted in the third round, regardless of if he gets off to a slow start or not.

The 49ers experienced something similar to Hurd's rookie season before, when 3rd round pick Joe Williams was on IR throughout his rookie year. Williams ended up getting cut going into year two. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan will do everything in their power to avoid another Joe Williams incident, ultimately making Hurd a safe bet for the final 53-man roster (health permitting). Whether or not Hurd can stay healthy throughout camp and the preseason will be a huge storyline to follow as the season looms.

#5) Dante Pettis

Analysis: Dante Pettis marks the first of eight receivers whose roster spot is in jeopardy. Pettis was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan liked Pettis' skill set so much that they even traded up to draft him.

Pettis had an up and down rookie season, however, he managed to close out the year on an extremely positive note. The final five games of Pettis' rookie season amounted to 20 catches, 359 yards, and four touchdowns.

Despite the promising end to his rookie year, Pettis had an extremely disappointing 2019 season. Pettis performed so poorly that he ended up in Shanahan's doghouse.

Looking ahead to the upcoming season, it appears that Pettis will have a final opportunity to prove himself - at least throughout camp. If Pettis is able to get his career back on track and play at the level we saw from him to close out the 2017 season, then the 49ers will have a crafty route runner who can get open down the field.

If Pettis does not show up ready to compete for a job, then he'll most likely be traded or even cut if the 49ers can't find a trade partner.

How Pettis shows up during camp is another big storyline to follow as the season approaches. As of right now, Pettis is on the bubble of the final 53-man roster. However, I give him the 5th best chance of making the team.

RELATED: Can Catman Escape the Doghouse? A Dante Pettis Theory

#6) Trent Taylor

Analysis: Trent Taylor was drafted in the 5th round of the 2017 draft to be the 49ers' slot receiver. When healthy, Taylor has done a solid job in that role.

To close out the 2017 regular season, Taylor and Garoppolo developed nice chemistry with one another. That chemistry did not have a chance to develop throughout the 2018 season, as Taylor battled through back injuries and Garoppolo lost the remainder of his season after suffering an ACL tear Week 3 against the Chiefs.

Throughout training camp last year, Trent Taylor was looking like the 49ers' best receiver. Mike Silver said that several coaches felt like Taylor was headed for a Pro Bowl caliber season. Unfortunately for Taylor, he lost his 2019 season to a foot injury.

What is worrisome about Taylor, is that he has had multiple surgeries on his injured foot. For a slot receiver who relies on his short-area quickness, it is vital that Taylor's foot stays 100% healthy. If Taylor's foot can't hold up, it'll make it extremely difficult for him to play the position.

Taylor has been productive when healthy, but it is hard to imagine his 5'8" frame holding up over the course of a 16 game season. Especially considering the injuries he's already endured in just three seasons.

The best case scenario is that Taylor is healthy and can get back to being a reliable receiver who moves the chains. The worst case is that his foot is not fully recovered, which in my opinion will lead to him getting cut.

Taylor is on the 53-man roster bubble, but has a solid chance of making the team as long as his body holds up.

#7) Jauan Jennings

Analysis: The 49ers selected Jauan Jennings with their last pick this past draft. Jenning is a big-body, physical receiver, who stands 6'3"' and weighs in at 215 pounds.

Last season at Tennessee, Jennings caught 59 passes for 969 yards and eight touchdowns. Per Pro Football Focus, Jennings led all college receivers with 30 broken tackles. Considering how Jennings plays the position, it is easy to see Kyle Shanahan falling in love with his playstyle.

Jennings is the biggest threat to Taylor and Pettis, who are fighting for the final receiver spots. If he plays well throughout camp and the preseason, it'll be difficult for the 49ers to stash him on the practice squad. This could open the door for Jennings to steal a roster spot from the aforementioned receivers. Jennings is also an excellent insurance policy for Hurd, in the event Hurd is still not healthy enough to have an impact on the upcoming season.

Right now, Jennings is on the outside looking in. The 49ers have a similar receiver in Hurd. However, if Jennings is a camp standout, either Pettis or Taylor will be on his way out.

#8) Travis Benjamin

Analysis: Benjamin was signed as a free agent this offseason, in hopes of him becoming the downfield threat the team envisioned Marquise Goodwin being.

Having seven years of NFL experience under his belt, including a few years with Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland, it is hard to count out Benjamin in regards to making the final 53-man roster.

Benjamin averages 15 yards per reception, and in the past has been a solid downfield receiver. With an improved offensive line, Garoppolo should have more time to throw in 2020. With more time to throw, the downfield ability of Benjamin could be extremely useful.

Unfortunately for Benjamin, the receiver room is loaded and it is unlikely that he is able to earn a spot over the younger promising talent.

#9) Richie James Jr

Analysis: Drafted by the 49ers in the 2018 NFL Draft, Richie James has proven to be a solid 7th round find.

Throughout his first two years, James has served mostly as the 49ers' return specialist. James resuming his duties as the team's returner is no guarantee, as Aiyuk was a tremendous returner at Arizona State.

As a receiver, James has shown big play ability. On 15 career receptions, he's averaged nearly 20 yards per catch. However, the sample size is extremely small.

James is certainly an NFL talent, but he'll most likely have to continue to display that elsewhere.

With all of the talent the 49ers have at receiver they're better off letting Aiyuk return kicks and punts, while giving James' roster spot to a receiver with more upside.

Do not expect James to make the final 53-man roster.

#10) Shawn Poindexter

Analysis: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2019, Poindexter is the tallest 49er receiver at 6'5". Poindexter suffered a season-ending injury last preseason, though it seems he'll be ready for camp.

Poindexter is a long shot to make the roster, but his size makes him an intriguing receiver to follow. Throughout the preseason Poindexter will be auditioning for an NFL roster, just not on the 49ers. Expect Poindexter to be on the practice squad or cut.

#11) Chris Finke

Analysis: Finke, an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame, was signed this past April. Finke stands 5'9" and weighs 185 pounds.

If the 49ers want to keep a true slot receiver on their roster, then that spot will most likely be issued to Taylor. However, Finke could give Taylor a run for his money with a strong camp performance.

Finke seems like a much stronger practice squad candidate than 53-man roster candidate.

#12) Chris Thompson

Having spent time with the Houston Texans and the 49ers, Thompson has struggled to get on the field in regular season games. Going into the season, Thompson will be 26 years old. The clock is ticking for him to finally make an impact on an NFL roster.

Like Poindexter, Thompson will be auditioning this preseason for another team's roster.

Follow me on Twitter: @NinerNick_22
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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