49ers training camp: Jauan Jennings a name to watch in 2020

Wide receiver Jauan Jennings #15 of the Tennessee Volunteers with Saivion Smith #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)
Wide receiver Jauan Jennings #15 of the Tennessee Volunteers with Saivion Smith #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images) /

As the 49ers head into training camp, there are many names to watch, especially Jauan Jennings among the wide receiver group.

Much as been made this offseason about the nature of the San Francisco 49ers wide receiver group.

There’s talent there, to be sure, including budding superstar Deebo Samuel, ever-improving Kendrick Bourne, and oft-injured slot receiver Trent Taylor, among others. But question marks abound for the entire group, spanning from past and current health (Samuel, Taylor, Jalen Hurd, and Richie James) to who the team can truly count on in big moments given the unit’s relative youth.

Essentially that means there are very few locks both in terms not only who will make the final roster, but who will see playing time once the season gets rolling in September.

Depending on your viewpoint, this may be terrifying, since the 49ers’ Super Bowl window is clearly open right now and wasting a season because of a lack of options at wide receiver would be unfortunate. Or it might be an opportunity for players to step up and take control of their own NFL destinies.

One such player who may benefit from the unknown quantities in the 49ers receivers room is Jauan Jennings, a 2020 seventh-round NFL Draft pick out of the University of Tennessee.

Jennings played four years in Knoxville, although he missed most of the 2017 season with an injury. He ended his tenure as a Volunteer with 146 receptions for 2,153 yards and 18 touchdowns, and most importantly recorded no fumbles in four seasons.

His struggles at the NFL Combine led to him falling to the draft’s final round, but he has a very clear skill set that drew 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan to him: he breaks tackles.

Pro Football Focus charted him with 29 broken tackles on 57 receptions as a senior, meaning the 49ers add to their cadre of tackle breakers that also includes Samuel and All-Pro tight end George Kittle.

Jennings is a big guy (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), not particularly fast or explosive, but shows a good ability to go after the ball, according to Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network and, as noted previously, Jennings is also quite surehanded.

What’s the 49ers plan with Jauan Jennings?

Some have referred to Jennings as simply Hurd insurance, given the Niners don’t really know what the status of their 2019 NFL Draft pick will be heading into the 2020 season, since back injuries like the one that sidelined Hurd for the entirety of his rookie season are dicey.

And while it’s tempting to run with that because of their physical similarities (although Hurd is bigger, at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Jennings is likely to feature as more of an outside receiver, while Hurd will look to be a moveable piece for Shanahan’s offense, playing in the slot, on the outside, and even in the backfield.

With that in mind, it doesn’t mean that Jennings will only make the roster if Hurd continues to struggle with his health. In spite of their being physically similar, Hurd and Jennings are not the same player and could each add their own something special to the offense if each player makes the team.

One of the most notable elements is that some draft profiles gave Jennings a much higher grade, including PFF, which projected Jennings to not last past the second round. This suggests Jennings could be a diamond in the rough and could have something to special to offer as part of Shanahan’s offense.

Next. 3 players who must impress in 49ers training camp to avoid being cut. dark

Jennings’ ability to catch and hold onto the ball and then make something happen once he has it could be important to San Francisco’s offensive scheme. This means Jennings is definitely a player to watch throughout training camp.