49ers fans should buy into Kendrick Bourne hype

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

49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne has been one of the team’s biggest standouts in training camp, and he’s poised for a career-best year as a result.

On the first day of padded practices in training camp, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne rolled down the left sideline past cornerback Emmanuel Moseley for a 30-yard reception from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

In addition to that impressive catch, Bourne also hauled in two touchdowns in red-zone drills, as reported here from Sports Illustrated’s Grant Cohn.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s wide receiver room has a lot of question marks heading into 2020, highlighted by injuries to Deebo Samuel (foot) and, most recently, Jalen Hurd (knee). Beyond those two, there isn’t a lot of proven depth with extensive liability. Yes, slot receiver Trent Taylor has flashed after missing all of 2019 with a foot injury. Rookie wideout Brandon Aiyuk has been impressive as well.

Yet Bourne is the most consistent and reliable of San Francisco’s wideouts. The longest-tenured, too.

Bourne has already established himself as one of Shanahan’s best red-zone options. Despite managing only 358 receiving yards last season, the former undrafted free agent out of Eastern Washington was tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with five, and each one of those came within the red zone. In fact, all of Bourne’s nine career touchdowns have come within this crucial spot of the field — an area in which, historically, Shanahan-led offenses have struggled.

But what’s beginning to separate Bourne from being just a red-zone weapon is his versatility as a multifaceted weapon. Seeing him perform on a 30-yard deep route in practice against a cornerback the Niners started in the Super Bowl is just one example.

And, of course, there were earlier hints of this last season, especially on that crucial 3rd-and-16 completion against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 16 during the playoff push last year:

Entering year four of his pro career, 2020 could mark the season in which Bourne becomes much more complete an offensive weapon.

49ers’ injury context benefits Kendrick Bourne, Kyle Shanahan

There’s no way getting around it, but losing Hurd and Samuel — the latter at least during training camp — is a major setback.

Yet Hurd could have challenged Bourne for the kind of role Shanahan needed to exploit, particularly down low within the red zone. Bourne was, of course, a lock to make the 53-man roster. But with Hurd now out of the picture, being the primary go-to option in this area of the field is Bourne’s job to lose.

More importantly, though, Bourne’s experience bodes well for the kind of attention he’ll get in training camp. There’s little questioning San Francisco’s top wide receiver right now is Samuel, and Aiyuk is the complementary piece Shanahan and Co. are hoping develop into a top No. 2 option. Instead of Samuel seeing those first-team reps, however, Bourne is likely going to be the primary beneficiary.

And if Samuel ends up missing the first few weeks of the regular season, it’s almost a guarantee Bourne will be a starter.

This puts a lot of extra pressure on Bourne to thrive. If he does, there’s ample reason to assume he’ll wind up seeing a notable increase in the numbers he produced last season, and perhaps not just in the attention level he’s already getting within the red zone.

Next. 3 problems Kyle Shanahan faces at wide receiver in 2020. dark

As long as Bourne continues to provide that consistency and ability during training camp, the pending regular-season results should be fun to watch.