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What does the 49ers meeting with multiple pass catchers pre-draft tell us about their future plans?

The Niners continue to show interest in pass catchers. Let’s talk about why that’s the case.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 01 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 49ers continue to do their due diligence on pass catchers for this upcoming draft. And for good reason, as Jauan Jennings becomes a restricted free agent after the 2023 season, Danny Gray remains an unknown, and Ray-Ray McCloud didn’t see the field outside a Deebo Samuel injury.

When you’re selecting later in the draft, you’re not looking to replace your top wideouts. But this is a big year for both Deebo and Brandon Aiyuk. San Francisco must determine if both wideouts price tags are worth their talent.

Aiyuk will be under team control through the 2024 season, as John Lynch said the 49ers will pick up his fifth-year option. But that’ll cost north of $14 million, while Samuel’s contract will be more than $20 million in 2024.

A 49ers roster without Aiyuk or Samuel would seem foreign. It’d take a lot to trade BA or release Samuel, but this is a team that’s caught us by surprise at least once a year, so nothing should be ruled out.

Pre-draft visits

The best organizations draft for the future. Jordan Elliott highlighted the importance of following the 49ers pre-draft visits earlier on Tuesday. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that the 49ers will meet with Michigan State wide receiver Jayden Reed this week.

Reed is as high as pick No. 66 in some mock drafts, while he slides into the late fourth round in others.

Reed was far more productive as a junior in 2021, where he averaged over 17 yards per reception, caught 14 touchdowns, and went over 1,000 yards receiving. He ran a 4.45 40-yard dash, but his best trait as a receiver is his hands. Reed does a fantastic job of making catches he has no business making.

And if the Niners are truly drafting for the future, Reed’s calling card may be a returner at the next level. He averaged over 21, yes, 21 yards per punt return as a junior, including two touchdowns.

You won’t confuse Reed for a burner, but he’s plenty fast enough, has great hands, and is good enough off the line of scrimmage to be an effective WR3.

According to Aaron Wilson, the 49ers also met with Central Michigan tight end Joel Wilson, who led the Chippewas in touchdown receptions with six and yards receiving per game. Wilson was not invited to the NFL Combine, but is listed at 6’4”, 250 pounds. Wilson did not run a 40-yard dash at his pro day due to what I believe was an ankle injury.

Finally, former Oklahoma tight end Brayden Willis, who we discussed three weeks ago, has his pre-draft visit with the 49ers Tuesday.

San Francisco’s roster turns over at a high rate, so planning for the future, whether it’s for a WR3 or a potential Kyle Juszczyk replacement, is why we’re seeing them meet with so many pass catchers.