49ers 53-man roster: Power ranking each unit entering 2021
8th: 49ers Wide Receivers
Starters: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Trent Sherfield
Backups: Jalen Hurd, Mohammad Sanu, Jauan Jennings
The first of the non-specialist position groups show up, and already there’s considerable talent here.
Ultimately, though, the 49ers receiving core has two players both talented and with room to grow, and following that, a lot of question marks and untapped potentials.
Brandon Aiyuk comes into his second year riding high from a rookie season that saw him showcase his talent in considerably less-than-ideal circumstances. From dealing with an injury that slowed his progression in training camp to a constant rotation of quarterbacks and fellow starting receivers, Aiyuk’s success was a minor miracle. But he showed his ability to be a true No. 1, and as reports from the very beginning of training camp seem to indicate, he’s started the process to perfect and hone his undeniable potential.
Deebo Samuel, on the other hand, had somewhat of a regression in his second year. Marred by an offseason foot injury that left him a little out of shape and rusty to start the season, his season never got off to a great start, and the quarterback situation stunted his development as a downfield receiver. Samuel’s unique running style and aggressive YAC give him a lot of options, but a healthy offseason should allow him to be smoother with his route running and expand his arsenal.
After these two, though, both of whom are talented but wouldn’t yet be called bona fide stars, there’s a lot of uncertainty that underlines why the 49ers receiving corps would be ranked so low.
The most pleasant surprise of training camp was Trent Sherfield, whose aggressiveness at the catch point, route flow, and jersey number have brought on joking comparisons to Antonio Brown. Despite the lofty projection, Sherfield has looked like the real deal, but without a proven track record, there’s no guarantee he’ll put it together.
Mohamed Sanu reportedly looked spry and explosive in training camp, but his last couple of seasons have been marred with ineffectiveness, and at his age in the NFL, he’ll have to prove those seasons were an aberration. Jauan Jennings has looked fiery on the field, but poor-timed drops have put a question mark on his potential upside, and as a seventh-round pick just now onto the 53-man roster, there is little proof of his own ability.
The greatest example of this is Jalen Hurd, the 2019 third-round pick who has yet to play in a regular-season game because of a variety of injuries. While there was undeniable potential in Hurd’s frame and athleticism, it remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to actually contribute.
By the end of the year, the wide receivers could be one of the very best position groups San Francisco has.
But right now, there’s more potential than production, especially beyond the top two guys, and with a roster this talented, that makes it hard to rank high.