No. 2: 49ers Wide Receiver Kendrick Bourne
Late last season and into the playoffs, Kyle Shanahan essentially trusted only three of his wide receivers to shoulder the bulk of the workload: Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne and the veteran, Emmanuel Sanders.
Sanders is no longer in San Francisco, signing a two-year free-agent deal with the New Orleans Saints during the offseason. And with Samuel now out for likely the beginning of the 2020 regular season, Bourne’s level of responsibility suddenly sees a massive spike.
Yes, the Niners could see a return from other receivers, perhaps Trent Taylor or Jalen Hurd, who spent all of 2019 on injured reserve. But based off Shanahan’s usage of Bourne last year, combined with his noteworthy production in the red zone, one could figure the former Eastern Washington target winds up being No. 1 on the depth chart to begin the year.
Bourne hasn’t frequently faced other teams’ top cornerbacks, as that job was primarily left to both Sanders and Samuel for the latter half of 2019.
Now, given Samuel’s absence and the time-taking development needed for Brandon Aiyuk, Bourne will have to be a vital factor in ensuring the 49ers’ passing efforts don’t suffer a dramatic fall over the first quarter of the regular season.