SF 49ers: 5 players with most to prove in Week 15 vs. Cowboys

Wesley Johnson #61 of the San Francisco 49ers snaps the ball to Nick Mullens #4 (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Wesley Johnson #61 of the San Francisco 49ers snaps the ball to Nick Mullens #4 (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /
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SF 49ers, Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Marquez White (39) covering San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

The SF 49ers are heading towards an uncertain offseason, meaning Week 15 vs. the Cowboys is essential for these five players.

In all reality, the 5-8 SF 49ers are eliminated from postseason contention. While they’re mathematically not out of the running yet, the true nature of their situation says otherwise. It would take a perfect storm of events for the Niners to make it into January football.

With that as a backdrop, there are three aspects at play for head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. over these five three weeks:

  1. Play the role of a spoiler, looking to thwart their final opponents’ chances of bettering their own playoff positioning.
  2. Tanking for better positioning in the 2021 NFL Draft.
  3. Using these final three weeks as an evaluation period or “extended preseason” for players facing an uncertain future.

All three items could be at play at the same time, although it’s a bit more difficult to mesh the first two.

With 40 pending free agents on the current roster, and a number of players who may wind up being offseason cuts, Week 15 against the Dallas Cowboys is the next step in determining their value to San Francisco.

As such, Sunday’s contest at AT&T Stadium will mean a lot for these five SF 49ers players.

No. 5: SF 49ers Wide Receiver Kendrick Bourne

The Niners have their top two wide receivers figured out for 2021: Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. But the wide receiving room behind those two is a completely different story.

The de factor third wideout is Kendrick Bourne, who actually ranks second behind Aiyuk in total catches (39) and receiving yards (489) and has been something of a red-zone specialist over his career despite having just one touchdown this season.

Yet Bourne, a 2021 free agent, is coming off a Week 14 game where he was plagued with multiple drops, putting a stain on whatever hopes he might have about San Francisco re-signing him.

Not helping the matter is the realization next year’s NFL Draft is about as deep at the position as was the 2020 draft, meaning the SF 49ers could elect to get both younger and potentially cheaper at the position by replacing Bourne via that route.

Considering Dallas’ defensive woes this season, Bourne has a chance to prove his net value to the Niners.

Especially with Samuel likely to miss the rest of the year with a hamstring injury.