With the San Francisco 49ers reporting for training camp on July 26, we’re taking a look at players that’ll be fighting to make the final 53-man roster in 2019. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, in their third year, have built a team that features the most competition since the pair took over in 2017. Today, we’re breaking down a second-year wideout who made his name on special teams as a rookie.
We began our series covering individual players on the bubble with defensive lineman Jullian Taylor, a seventh-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. 17 picks later; the 49ers selected receiver Richie James. Both rookies fought their way on to the team’s 53-man roster last season, and both will need to do the same in 2019.
James was dominant at Middle State Tennessee. In three years, he totaled 243 receptions for 3,249 yards and 23 touchdowns. His success with the 49ers as a rookie was limited to special teams. James was the team’s primary kick returner, averaging 25.2 yards per return. He authored a 97-yard touchdown in the team’s Week 15 win over the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium. On offense, he accounted for nine receptions, 144 yards and a touchdown on the season.
A back injury hampered fellow slot receiver Trent Taylor for most of 2018. Despite Taylor’s absence, James was unable to insert himself as a major piece of the offense. This doesn’t bode well for his chances in 2019, as the 49ers have made significant investments in the receiving corps this offseason. The team added Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd in the second and third round of the draft, respectively. They also signed free agent Jordan Matthews, who adds size and experience to the group.
The 49ers have plenty of options capable of playing slot receiver, many of which are locks to make the roster in 2019. James’ chances will again come down to his ability on special teams. Whether or not that is enough to justify cutting a more impactful player on offense will be a storyline to watch throughout training camp.
Projected receiver depth chart:
Previous players on the bubble:
(Click name for breakdown)