Jauan Jennings could find a home in the slot for the 49ers, and that’s key for his placement on the depth chart in 2020.
The most interesting positional group for the San Francisco 49ers as we get closer to 2020 training camp is at wide receiver. The playing group looks exceptionally different from last year and the result is a receiving corps of excitement but also uncertainty.
Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk is the new shiny addition for the 49ers, drafted as the first-round prospect arguably best fitting in the Niners’ scheme and shining in college as the most dynamic receiver after the catch.
But much later in the draft, Tennessee wideout Jauan Jennings was drafted and he could, similar to Aiyuk, immediately get into a starting role for San Francisco.
Or, as a seventh-round pick, he could avoid making the team entirely.
For Jennings, the key is getting the starting role as the 49ers new slot receiver.
Jennings has a similar style to the 49ers’ own, Kendrick Bourne. Jennings will struggle to separate but he can snag the ball when you throw it to him. Like Bourne, Jennings can find himself a favorite target both in the red zone and on third downs.
One thing the Niners have always lacked in their offense, which prioritizes receivers who can make plays after the catch rather than being physical, is a receiver who can go up there and get the ball in a contest.
Jennings offers an immediate change to this.
His ability to snag the ball in traffic is what he does best. He’s tall enough, at 6-foot-3 and over 200 pounds, to give a lot of corners trouble in jump-ball situations and he’s tough enough to take the hit if he encounters traffic.
In short, there is a niche in the 49ers offense that hasn’t been filled for a very long time. Jennings can immediately be that guy.
Oh, and he can block pretty well, too. That’s always nice.
It’s worth noting Hurd has a similar physical profile while being more athletically dynamic.
Hurd has the ability to play all over the field and even at tight end, so he’s not as much of a factor in taking over slot duties primarily. Taylor, however, has always been the slot receiver since being with San Francisco.
For Jennings, he needs to show he can be more dependable than Taylor and build a quick rapport with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Continuity is going to be more important than ever this season, so Jennings has to rely on natural chemistry with Garoppolo to have more of an impact.
The chance is there for Jennings to make an immediate impact, but he could also flame out very quickly.
It’s up to him to show he can be the slot guy for the 49ers.