49ers depth chart: Post-NFL Draft 53-man roster prediction for 2021
49ers Wide receivers (6)
WR Deebo Samuel
WR Brandon Aiyuk
WR Jalen Hurd
WR Travis Benjamin
WR Richie James
WR Austin Watkins
This is one of the more difficult units to predict once you get past the top two options, which the 49ers have to be excited to see on the field together in 2021 after not getting a lot of that in 2020.
Beyond that, there are a plethora of names, almost all of whom could make a case for having a strong camp and making their way onto the roster before the season starts.
One thing we know for sure: the franchise broke an 18-year run of drafting a wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft mostly because they didn’t see the position being as big a need as outsiders might have. Looking at the roster, it’s clear to see why adding another name to the mix might have complicated this even further, especially since it wasn’t an early round priority.
Third-year receiver Jalen Hurd is the biggest wild card of them all among the group. He missed his rookie season with a back injury that was so bad he couldn’t even join the team in Miami for the Super Bowl because sitting on the airplane was too painful.
After battling back from that injury, he tore his ACL in camp last year and missed the entirety of year two. His rehab is going well, according to John Lynch, and if he’s healthy, he should make the cut here mostly because the team will want to make good on his draft pedigree and show what dimension he can add to the offense.
After that, it’s anybody’s guess.
The 49ers will likely keep a seasoned veteran around, in this case, Travis Benjamin, who has been with Kyle Shanahan before in Cleveland with the Browns but opted out of last season due to the pandemic, but Mohamed Sanu is also an option to fill that void having spent time with the Niners in 2020.
Richie James fills in as a slot option, although Shanahan won’t necessarily tie any of these guys to anyone’s place on the field, and could factor in as a return man if others don’t pry it away from him.
And then, because it is often the case with this team, an undrafted free agent makes the cut in the form of UAB wideout Austin Watkins, cousin of Baltimore Ravens’ receiver Sammy Watkins. He’s a tall kid at 6-foot-3, who could feature as an under-the-radar signing the way Kendrick Bourne was for all those years between 2017 and 2020 and should have an opportunity to play himself into a role on the roster.
But the list of ways to mix-and-match this group is long, with others like River Cracraft, Kevin White, Austin Proehl, Jauan Jennings, and Trent Sherfield also potentially in the mix.