49ers roster: 4 best candidates for No. 3 wide receiver

Richie James #13 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Richie James #13 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Travis Benjamin, Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin (12) Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

49ers Option No. 3: Travis Benjamin

It might be easy to forget veteran wide receiver Travis Benjamin is on San Francisco’s roster after he initially signed a one-year deal in 2020 only to opt out in light of the pandemic.

Benjamin’s contract now pushed back a season, the 31-year-old receiver has one element Kyle Shanahan will look for at the position he himself has said he judges the hardest: experience. Namely with proper route running and footwork.

There’s another element working in Benjamin’s favor here: speed. While it’s surely safe to argue Benjamin has lost a step as he’s aged, one shouldn’t forget he ran a 4.31 40-yard time back at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine before being drafted by the Cleveland Browns that year and eventually coached by then-offensive coordinator Shanahan in 2014.

A true downfield burner is something the 49ers haven’t had since parting ways with wide receiver Marquise Goodwin ahead of the 2020 season.

At the same time, though, Benjamin has been hampered by leg injuries the previous two years before opting out last year, limiting his combined games in 2018 and 2019 with the Los Angeles Chargers to just 17 total.

Perhaps a year away does Benjamin some good, but it’s a double-edged argument, as he’ll also have to shake off the proverbial rust in order to get back into game-day shape.

Yet if Shanahan wants to exploit some downfield schemes in 2021, Benjamin might be the best candidate to fill the void.