Over the next few months we will analyze positions of needs for the San Francisco 49ers. What position is key? What positions can be addressed in free agency versus the draft? The position that jumps out is wide receiver. Outside of the trade market, the receivers available in free agency are slim, so could the draft be the 49ers opportunity to add a playmaker for Jimmy Garoppolo?
The 2019 wide receiver draft unit is an interesting one to say the least. Players like DK Metcalf, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and N’Keal Harry are headlining the class, but most evaluators are still twisted on who is “the guy” in this class. Expectations are we could see anywhere from 1-4 receivers taken in the first round with a bevy of receivers slated to come off the board later. Just because the class is a little murky at the top doesn’t mean the receivers available in the draft are weak. This is the perfect draft class for an organization to get creative with finding their next pass catcher.
Kyle Shanahan is known for having an eye for receivers, but could his next weapon be right under his nose?
Keelan Doss is a name you might have heard circulating the draft wire around the Senior Bowl, or if you’re a UC Davis alum you might be familiar. If you don’t know much about the former Aggie, now is the time.
Doss had insane production in the Big Sky conference, specifically his 26 touchdowns and 3,744 yards in three seasons. How legit is that production against Doss’s competition at Davis? It’s an important question that most small-school athletes face. Doss took to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama to show he’s true to his numbers and proved it.
Doss stood-out in practices each day on Jon Gruden’s South squad. His 6’3, 200 lb stature stood out on the field. If you type in “Keelan Doss” into youtube you’ll find one of the better highlight packages you can find in the 2019 class. FCS cornerbacks simply couldn’t handle Doss. He continually bodied smaller corners game after game. Doss was a physical presence when he stepped on the field at Davis and in Mobile. Doss matched up with physical corners like Texas’ Kris Boyd and Penn State’s Amani Oruwariye and looked good. Finally, Doss showed-out in the game as well, grabbing four receptions for 55 yards. The numbers may not jump out, but he looked smooth in a new offense in limited reps versus top-tier competition.
Doss has unique body control skills for a player his size. He understands how to box out defenders while the football is in the air which a solid trait that should transfer to the NFL. When the ball went up in the air, Doss was that player to come down with it.
What was really impressive about Doss’ trip to Mobile was his route running ability, something that was unexpected before seeing him work in person. Doss ran every route with ease in Mobile, showing off impressive footwork and easy breaks.
Doss was the playmaker at UC Davis— they got him the football in almost every way they could. Doss racked up over 115 receptions each of the past two seasons at Davis. A player with his skillset should be putting up those type numbers, but this also showed Davis has a bit of versatility to his game. Doss’s size projects him to be more of an outside threat, but his past at Davis gives him experience in the slot which could make him a matchup nightmare at the next level.
Doss was also a multi-year captain at Davis. Doss could’ve entered the transfer portal or went pro last season after leading the nation in receiving, but instead he came back to Davis for his senior year. Aggies head coach Dan Hawkins described Doss as “Humble” to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Jennifer Lee Chan: “He is rare. He doesn’t just want to play, he will put in the work. He’s always the first one in and the last one out.”
Versatility, route running, leadership— plus size? Sound like anything a certain team in Santa Clara could use? Doss could be a perfect piece of clay Shanahan could wield in his offense. We know how much Shanahan values things like versatility and route running skills in his young receivers and Doss checks a lot of those boxes.
Doss also provides an element to Shanahan’s offense the 49ers are lacking — size in the red zone. Outside of George Kittle, the 49ers receiving options are small. The minute Doss steps on the field teams need to respect his size at the least, which would hopefully free up situations for Shanahan to get creative with Kittle and Dante Pettis.
Another thing that needs to be considered when speaking about Doss is his local appeal. Doss is from Alameda, only about 40 miles away from Santa Clara. Doss is a Bay Area kid that speaks the language— he told reporters at the Senior Bowl that he listens to Too Short’s “Blow The Whistle” every game day. Something tells me he’d fit in here.
It’s rare that a FCS receiver immediately steps up to the next level and produces, but Doss’s traits show a lot of positives that’s hard to ignore, especially with a coaches like Shanahan and newly reported staff member, Wes Welker leading Doss’s development. Doss will need to show off some speed at the Combine to stamp the final box, and if he does you could see his name roar up draft boards. Doss did a lot for his draft stock in Mobile and with continued refinement in the pre-draft process he could turn from late-sleeper to high riser in the 2019 class. Doss could be in line to be one of the highest drafted UC Davis product of all-time.