Throughout history, the San Francisco 49ers have had some of the best wide receivers ever. We take a look at Jerry Rice and his 22,895 yards that no one is touching, and then there are players like Hall of Famer Terrell Owens and the late Dwight Clark who made ‘The Catch.’
But, what about now? I’d say, San Francisco’s 2022 receiving corps is criminally underrated, with the exception of Deebo Samuel. This is a group with speed, depth and versatility. While flying under the radar, head coach Kyle Shanahan can move mountains with these players.
After months of uncertainty and rumors swirling, Deebo Samuel finally got a massive payday, and rightfully so. With a three-year contract worth up to $73.5 million, Samuel is due for another stellar season. Being used as both a running back and wide receiver in 2021, Samuel made a name for himself as one of the most versatile current players. Realistically the biggest question mark when it comes to Samuel is if he can stay healthy since his workload is more than the average receiver. If Samuel produces numbers even close to the same as he did last season, this 49ers team will be successful.
Brandon Aiyuk is somewhat of a dark horse for this upcoming season. While Samuel was negotiating a contract, Aiyuk seems to have momentarily slid into the place of WR1. In training camp, multiple reports have stated that he has been by far the best player on the field. BA has been putting in the work this offseason with second-year quarterback Trey Lance. The two have been living and training together, which will only enhance their chemistry and play-making ability on the field. It would not be surprising if Aiyuk becomes Lance’s first option to target during actual games.
Sitting at WR3 is Jauan Jennings who was drafted in the seventh round of the 2020 draft. During the regular season, Jennings had his best game against the Los Angeles Rams in week 17. Jennings played a tremendous part in the comeback win as he had two touchdowns, a season-high for him. With what was probably the biggest game of the season with playoffs on the line, Jennings came up huge. Jennings will be important to San Francisco this season because they need players who can perform in high-stake and pressure situations. I expect Jennings as a WR3 to reach at least 350 yards compared to his 282 in 2021.
The 49ers drafted Southern Methodist University’s Danny Gray in the third round at the 2022 draft and fans have been raving about him almost non-stop. 49ers faithful is excited because not only does Gray have speed, but he can also be a legitimate threat downfield if paired with Trey Lance, who can surely launch it. During training camp, reports have stated that Gray is winning reps and burning cornerbacks with his speed. While Gray still has things to prove since he has not played a game in the NFL yet, his success at training camp against a top-five defense speaks volumes.
Ray-Ray McCloud III
During the offseason, San Francisco’s front office addressed depth and return-specialist issues by signing Ray-Ray McCloud III, a former Pittsburgh Steeler. McCloud III not only gives the 49ers depth at the wide receiver position, but he can take punt returns, which is something they desperately need. In the playoffs last season, Deebo Samuel was seen at the end of a couple of punts, but this is just not feasible since this extra task only decreases Samuel’s durability when he is needed elsewhere. Over the past two years as a Steeler, McCloud III has returned 67 punts and led the league by gaining the most return yards in 2021. As a wide receiver, McCloud had 277 yards last season, which is just a few shy of San Francisco’s WR3 total.