San Francisco 49ers: 3 early position battles to watch in 2020

Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne #84 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne #84 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State Sun Devils
Brandon Aiyuk #2 of the Arizona State Sun Devils (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images) /

No. 1: Wide Receiver Roles

Into the playoffs early this year, Kyle Shanahan essentially trusted three of his wide receivers: Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne and Emmanuel Sanders.

San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers /

San Francisco 49ers

Sanders signed with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent during the offseason, prompting Shanahan to target Brandon Aiyuk at No. 25 overall in the NFL Draft to replace the veteran. Given his first-round pedigree, the 49ers will give Aiyuk every chance to thrive as a starter right out of the gate.

The trio of Aiyuk, Samuel and Bourne should be exciting enough to watch. And it’s important to note Shanahan doesn’t deploy his wideouts in the traditional WR1, WR2, slot deployment. Those roles will alternate for all the purposes of deception, which is fine.

But what about the depth chart behind these three?

Jauan Jennings doesn’t boast speed. Yet he’s tough, physical and capable of winning 50-50 jump-ball situations. The Niners don’t exactly have receivers of that ilk on their roster, potentially making the former Volunteer product a safe bet to crack the roster.

The additions of Jennings and Aiyuk could put other receivers on San Francisco’s roster, such as Richie James, Dante Pettis, Travis Benjamin and Trent Taylor, in danger of missing out on key roles this season.

Next. Predicting 49ers' 53-man roster after 2020 NFL Draft. dark

Teams typically keep no more than six wideouts on a 53-man roster, meaning there are likely to be some shocking cuts from the back end of this positional group, making the wide receivers’ efforts in training camp something worth monitoring.