The 24-year-old Baylor product missed all of last season with a back injury, but I think we are all excited to see what head coach Kyle Shanahan can do with yet another offensive weapon.
Hurd’s return isn’t the only reason for optimism for Niners fans. Fellow pass catcher Trent Taylor is also expected to be healthy for the start of training camp, which will give Garoppolo a solid solid option in the offense.
San Francisco elected not to re-sign veteran Emmanuel Sanders to a new contract, and I think part of the reasoning for general manager John Lynch is the pending return of both receivers.
When looking at the 49ers depth chart going into next season, there is a big for either Hurt or Taylor to step up, and catch a lot of passes in 2020. But, which out of the two will seize the opening?
Hurd is the bigger unknown out of the duo. He looked great in training camp last year, and flashed what he is capable of when he caught three passes for 31 yards in his preseason debut against the Dallas Cowboys.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Hurd after that point. Having him on the field alongside Deebo Samuel, and tight end George Kittle has 49ers fans salivating at the potential. Hurd’s versatility makes him an ideal fit in San Francisco’s system.
The Athletic’s Matt Barrows was asked in a recent mailbag if Hurd will be used more as a tight end, or receiver:
“The more complex answer is that he’ll probably do some tight end-ish things in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. For example, Hurd might line up in the slot position — what the 49ers call the “F” — in a situation, the 49ers might have previously had a tight end in that spot. Which is to say, there’s some overlap between the two positions, especially if you have a bigger-bodied receiver like Hurd on the field.”
I expect Hurd to be used in a similar way as fullback Kyle Juszczyk. With Hurd’s experience as a running back during his college days, he has ability to lineup in many positions on the field. Hurd has the ability to use his speed to pickup big yardage after the catch, while he has the size to make catches over defenders in the end zone.
Taylor is more of a known commodity. He was drafted by San Francisco in fifth-round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Taylor had a solid rookie season and developed an instant chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo, when the 49ers acquired the quarterback from the New England Patriots.
Garoppolo and Taylor connected on 17 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown over the quarterback’s first five starts as a Niner, and PFF gave Taylor a grade of 68.4 for the 2017 season.
With Garoppolo missing all but 2.5 games of 2018, Taylor caught 26 passes for 215 yards and a TD with Nick Mullens mainly filling in at quarterback, before missing all of last season.
If the 25-year-old is able to stay healthy in 2020, Shanahan will look to utilize him as a safety net in the slot for Garoppolo.
I am torn on who I think will have a better season. It’s tough to bet on a player who will basically be a redshirt rookie — but to me — Hurd has the higher ceiling. We have seen Shanahan create mismatches for his bigger pass catchers, and if Hurt can produce some big plays early in the season, the team may look to expand his role.
If they both stay healthy for all 16 games, I would expect Taylor to have more receptions, but Hurd to have the advantage in yards and touchdowns.
Nevertheless, I think we are all excited to have both pass catchers back in the fold going into the 2020 season.
Who do you think will have the better season out of Hurd and Taylor? Which player out of the two will have more receptions, yards and touchdowns?