The San Francisco 49ers would have enough players to field a starting unit that is coming off injured reserve from 2019. Some will be starters that the team will rely on to play a heavy dose of snaps, like Weston Richburg and D.J. Jones. Others will be critical role players like Jullian Taylor and Ronnie Blair.
We’ll keep it to a couple of offensive skill players that have yet to play a regular-season snap for the Niners. The unknown always draws us in, especially when talent is involved. Out of college, Jalen Hurd was thought of as this raw prospect as he transitioned from running back to wide receiver. In the preseason, we saw the type of receiver that the 49ers were lacking. A big, strong wideout that has the strength to win in contested situations, but also nimble enough to make plays after the catch. Hurd saw six targets in the 2019 preseason. He caught three of those, and each resulted in a first down or touchdown. Seventeen of his 31 yards came after the catch. There was an interception mixed in there, but that was on C.J. Beathard.
Hurd is an exciting prospect for several reasons, but one of them is he looked promising in preseason without catching a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo. That was the story for Deebo Samuel. Once the regular season happened, Samuel made plays because he had a quarterback that could get him the ball. Hurd primarily played in the slot and ran intermediate routes.
The other option is Jerick McKinnon, who Kyle Shanahan viewed as the missing piece in the offense dating back to the summer of 2018. Shanahan believes Jerick McKinnon is a lot better player than the box score showed. Kyle referenced McKinnon’s ability to get more yards than what the offensive line blocks for. Shanahan also can’t wait to use McKinnon out of the backfield:
“When it comes to separating and beating linebackers and safeties in man-to-man coverage, I definitely think he’s an issue for teams,” Shanahan said. “I think this league when it comes to third downs and things like that; you move the chains based off of matchups, which allows you to get points in the long run. I think Jerick is very versatile, and we can do a lot of things with him.
“He’s good enough to make it as a runner alone in this league. He’s good enough to make it in the pass game as just a third-down threat alone, but when you can do both of those, it gives you a lot of freedom as a coach.”
McKinnon has been cleared to practice, and if there is an offseason program that will be beneficial for him to get reps with his teammates.
You have a young wideout who gave us a tantalizing glimpse of what his career will look like. Then you have a runner with the receiving skills to exploit defenses. Both have high ceilings. Both need to prove that they can stay healthy. Who will have a bigger impact in 2020?
Who makes a bigger impact in 2020?
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