49ers depth chart: Why Jalen Hurd should be No. 2 wide receiver

Jalen Hurd #17 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Jalen Hurd #17 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The 49ers could and should make Jalen Hurd their No. 2 wide receiver in 2020.

The San Francisco 49ers wide receiving corps is one of the more intriguing storylines since head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. took over in 2017. San Francisco hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since former Niners wideout Anquan Boldin in 2014 (tight end George Kittle could probably be a No. 1 receiver on a lot of teams in the NFL), and the 49ers crop of wideouts generally is not regarded as a group that instills fear in defenses.

But now, three years into the new regime, the wide receiver room has quietly become one of the most competitive positions on the team.

Second-year wideout Deebo Samuel has solidified himself as a very good starting receiver in this league with potential upside of being the future No. 1 for Shanahan for years to come. After Samuel’s impressive rookie campaign in 2019, he will be penciled as the 49ers’ No. 1 wideout to start the season.

So who will be No. 2? My money is on second-year wide receiver Jalen Hurd.

Now everything I write after this, of course, is contingent on Hurd staying healthy. We all know his injury history and how he missed all of 2019 with a back injury. So we have to put that aside for a minute and assume that will not be the case again this year.

Hurd is a unique athletic talent. Unique might actually be an understatement in this case. Hurd was listed at 6-foot-4 and 228 pounds at the 2019 NFL Combine. At his pro day, he clocked a 4.64 40-yard dash, which is not bad for a player that size. But what makes him so unique is combining those physical traits with his athletic ability and skill set. He spent the first three years of his college career with the University of Tennessee as a running back. In 2015 Hurd recorded over 1,200 rushing yards for the Vols and added 12 touchdowns against the rest of the SEC.

There are not many running backs who possess Hurd’s size. Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry is 6-foot-3 but is much more compact than Hurd. Henry is a downhill power runner who has above-average speed, but I would argue Hurd is more agile with better lateral quickness than Henry, which helped him transition into a very good route runner at Baylor after he transferred there from the University of Tennessee.

It is not just those who drafted Hurd, or us 49ers fans who have seen the potential in Jalen Hurd either.

Peter King of NBC Sports (h/t 49ers Webzone) visited 49ers training camp in 2019 and was very impressed with Jalen Hurd, claiming “We just saw the 2019 NFL Offensive rookie of the year.”

What is one of the biggest praises given to Samuel during his impressive rookie season? His run after the catch, particularly the violent and physical nature he showcased with the ball in his hands. Shanahan gave him 14 carries during the season because of it. What is the one thing about rookie first-round wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk people can’t stop talking about? His ability to run with the ball after the catch.

Clearly, that is one of the traits in a wideout Shanahan has pinpointed as essential to playing in his offense.

I imagine Shanahan spends his time during quarantine imagining what his offense will look like with both Samuel and Hurd, the latter having recorded over 2,800 rushing yards and 1,400 receiving yards in his college career, taking the field Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals. It’s safe to say some of those highlight end-around plays to Samuel from 2019 will be called for Hurd in 2020.

So my argument for Hurd is simply this: At his best, Hurd can do things other players can’t because of his size and skill set.

As we progress through this wild and unconventional offseason and soon-to-be training camp, we will see Hurd’s name pop up and create the type of buzz we heard about then-rookie EDGE Nick Bosa’s camp last year. Not many players ever receive that type of praise.

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But not many players are 6-foot-4 and as dangerous as Hurd is.