What do the 49ers know that we don’t about their wide receiver corps? After the draft, Kyle Shanahan said, “we can win with the receivers we have.” I’m not saying that the team can’t. The schedule is easy on the surface. There’s talent all over the place on both sides of the ball. The Niners will be good in 2021.
The 49ers went into 2020 with the expectation that they could “win with their offensive line” and ended up signing a starting center in free agency and drafting a guard in the second round.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
San Francisco needs to replace Kendrick Bourne’s production. A healthy trio of Brandon Aiyuk, GeorgeKittle, and Deebo Samuel will make Bourne an afterthought. Assuming health, specifically for the 49ers, is like playing a game of roulette.
Enter Jalen Hurd, who has as many regular-season receptions as you and I. When you see a receiver, who is a rookie, no less, bounce off tackles during the preseason, and high point passes in a way that you haven’t seen a 49er receiver do in some time, you understand why fans continue to believe in Hurd.
Age: 25 (birthday was on January 24)
Experience: Two accrued seasons
Weight: 229 pounds
Odds on making the roster
Hurd was selected 67th overall back in 2019. He’s making the roster. Hurd’s rookie season was supposed to be a transition year where he learned the nuances about the position. That still has yet to happen, as injuries have taken two seasons away from him.
John Lynch said Hurd’s injury has been “stubborn” after the 2020 draft, proving correct. Lynch’s tone was a bit more optimistic regarding Hurd after this past draft. Lynch mentioned how Hurd’s rehab is going well, how the team checks in regularly with him, and that the team is excited to get him back. He also applauded how hard of a worker Hurd has been. The key part about Lynch’s quote was when he said, “We think he’ll be ready to go.”
To give you an idea of the quality of players selected from 65 through 70 in the past few years, here is who we’re talking about:
Some guy named Fred Warner
WR Dionte Johnson (DK Metcalf was selected one spot before Johnson)
If you broaden the picks to 10 or 15, you see some players who helped their teams right away. It’s been two years, but Hurd has a chance to help his team the minute they take the field. That’s why expectations are and will remain high for the talented “power slot” receiver.
What to expect in 2021
Nobody knows. When Lynch said Hurd would be ready to go, that didn’t tell us whether that’d be at OTAs or by the regular season. This kid has had some terrible injury luck. One injury happened when he was off to the side during practice by himself.
I’ll be curious to see if the Niners take it slow with Hurd or throw him out there with the first team. If we’re going solely off talent, why wouldn’t Hurd be the ideal replacement for Bourne? He’s bigger, faster, and better after the catch.
Bourne knew how to get open and had great hands, though. It’s difficult to simulate the nuances of the position from the sidelines. That’s why Hurd needs to play.
Expectations should be modest. They should be reasonable and fair. That won’t be the case for Hurd, thanks to a preseason performance two years ago. The 49ers aren’t a “Super Bowl or bust” team, but they’re far from rebuilding.
Everything about Hurd is a question, which makes predicting his season impossible. Let’s set the over/under at 30 receptions, 350 yards, and three touchdowns. Those were in the ballpark of Bourne’s numbers during 2019.
Is that too optimistic for a guy who wasn’t made his mark at the NFL, or will Hurd’s talent prevail?