49ers bolster receiver depth with Jauan Jennings late in NFL Draft

Jauan Jennings #15 of the Tennessee Volunteers (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Jauan Jennings #15 of the Tennessee Volunteers (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

In a somewhat surprising move, the San Francisco 49ers selected Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings with their seventh-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

On day three of the 2020 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers made multiple trades. The trades saw players departing for draft capital, such as wide receiver Marquise Goodwin and running back Matt Breida. There was also a trade that brought offensive tackle Trent Williams to the team for draft capital.

None of those moves seemed surprising, though. Goodwin and Breida had been attached to trade rumors for some time. And with a long-time member of the Niners, offensive tackle Joe Staley deciding to retire, a move to acquire a proven player at that position seemed inevitable.

A move that was a surprise to many around the league and in the 49ers fanbase, was the draft selection made in the seventh round. With their seventh-round pick (217th overall), the team selected wide receiver Jauan Jennings out of Tennessee.

The decision to select Jennings was a shocker for two main reasons. The first is that the 49ers needed a defensive back. With cornerback Richard Sherman getting up there in football years, and not having a proven guy across the field from him at the same position, a need to draft a cornerback was present.

Just as well, strong safety Jaquiski Tartt is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season and doesn’t have a proven guy behind him should he decide to go elsewhere. Needless to say, a safety or a cornerback with the seventh-round pick was widely thought to be the outcome.

Another reason the Jennings pick was surprising was the team had already used their second pick in the first round (25th overall) to draft wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk out of Arizona State. It seemed that that position group had been taken care of, especially with a somewhat crowded receiver room.

In 2019 at Tennessee, Jennings had 59 receptions for 969 yards and eight touchdowns. The numbers were great and he led his team in receiving. And at 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds, he is a big body at receiver.

The reason for the dip in his draft stock, though, was his sub-par 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine. He ran a 4.72, which even put him as a priority free agent signing in the eyes of NFL analyst Lance Zierlein.

All the evaluated weaknesses in his game seemed to revolve around speed, and him not being able to be a deep threat or a presence on the outside due to that.

Jennings’ head coach at Tennessee Jeremy Pruitt, however, was quick to jump to his support. He stated that his 40-yard dash time didn’t matter, and he would make an impact wherever he went.

Based on the current situation in the 49ers receiver room, it looks as though there will be a spot for him. As it stands, wide receivers Deebo Samuel and rookie Aiyuk look to be the Nos. 1 and 2 receivers on the depth chart.

The slot-receiver position looks to be up for grabs, though. And with Trent Taylor coming back from injury, there looks to be an opportunity for Jennings to get some reps at that spot. If he makes the most of those reps and gives head coach Kyle Shanahan a warm-fuzzy feeling, he may just see himself becoming the starting slot receiver.

Speed is important, but it is not everything for wide receivers. There have been draft prospects with excellent 40-yard dash times whose NFL careers did not go so well )see Darrius Heyward-Bey).

There have also been draft prospects who had very underwhelming 40-yard dash times and became great players (see Anquan Boldin who also posted a 4.72).

Although defensive back was a position that needed to be addressed. Shanahan and general manager John Lynch may be waiting until next year to draft someone at a much higher spot. For what it’s worth the Jennings selection adds value, being that it was a seventh-round pick.

It was low-risk and high-reward, the type of moves that 49ers like to make.

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No one truly knows what the future holds for Jennings, but we can wait, trust and see how it all plays out.