49ers NFL Draft: Jauan Jennings could push Kendrick Bourne off 2020 roster

Kendrick Bourne #84 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
Kendrick Bourne #84 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

The 49ers used their final pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to pick Jauan Jennings, which could put Kendrick Bourne in jeopardy as both have similar styles.

It was a very easy prediction the San Francisco 49ers would target the wide receiver position in the 2020 NFL Draft, given it’s the team’s biggest weakness on the roster.

It was harder to predict, but not especially surprising, the Niners would invest two picks at the position.

While the selection of Brandon Aiyuk in Round 1 is the most heralded pick (and rightly so), the selection of Jauan Jennings as a seventh-round pick is more interesting.

At least, in the sense of where he fits into the roster.

Jennings is going to get his chance, as the 49ers have no hesitations in giving people their shot if they deserve it. Richie James and Kendrick Bourne have both carved out roles on San Francisco’s roster as unheralded players at the position.

Interestingly, it’s the latter who may be in the most trouble with the addition of Jennings to the fold.

Bourne is not a speedy receiver nor does he get much in the way of separation. What he does do, and very well, is be the clutch receiver for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the red zone.

More than wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders, more than tight end George Kittle, it’s Bourne who is the preferred target for Garoppolo. He had only 30 catches for the season but still snagged five touchdowns, all of them were in red-zone situations.

Jennings is not a speedy guy either, and he has separation concerns for the next level. But his 6-foot-3 frame is just a little taller than Bourne at 6-foot-1. The 49ers have lacked a tall receiver to snag contested balls in the red zone, and Jennings could fit the bill.

Where Bourne has the advantage, for now, is chemistry and familiarity. He’s the favorite scoring target for Garoppolo and he’s now had a few years in the Kyle Shanahan system. Jennings has never played in a complicated scheme like this, nor has he even caught a pass from Garoppolo.

Also in comparison to Aiyuk, who is all but guaranteed a roster spot as a first-round pick, Jennings is not a certainty to survive training camp. He could be put onto the practice squad or cut entirely.

But where Jennings has the advantage is Bourne does not have a high ceiling. He’s good at what he does, but he was benefiting from injuries to Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd to get as many chances as he did.

Obviously it’s too early to speculate on exactly how high the ceiling of Jennings is but his frame, 8.0 yards after the catch (YAC) average and his 30 broken tackles in college last year suggest he can be a big possession receiver with the ability to surprise and gain extra yards.

Yards after the catch is the biggest want for Shanahan. It’s not a coincidence the two receivers selected in the draft were Aiyuk (best YAC average in college football) and Jennings (the aforementioned broken tackles).

So with that in mind, Bourne is in danger. The 49ers have a very busy engine room with fellow draftee Aiyuk, Hurd and Taylor back from injury and Travis Benjamin as an intriguing free agency signing.

The addition of Jennings may be the final blow that turns Bourne from a regular last season to off the roster in 2020.

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If the 49ers have all their receivers in top form in training camp, it’s going to be easily the best positional battle to watch.

It’s up to Bourne to make sure he still has a role to play among them.