49ers roster: 4 best things that surprised us most in 2021

Eli Mitchell #25 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Eli Mitchell #25 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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Jauan Jennings, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings (15) Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers’ 2021 season didn’t go perfectly, but there were some nice little hidden-gem surprises that took all of us off guard over the course of the year.

With the 2021 calendar year in the rearview mirror, and the San Francisco 49ers winding down their season campaign with the hopes of being a playoff team, it’s always worth looking back at all the things that could have gone better.

And those things that went well.

Understandably, the centerpiece storyline for the season was the quarterback controversy between Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, the end results of which have yet to play out. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel and EDGE Nick Bosa‘s respective dominance were storylines, too, making any of the negatives experienced over 2021 a lot more bearable.

None of those things truly surprised us, though. Samuel and Bosa are good players, and everyone knew the talk of the team would center on Garoppolo and Lance regardless of how things panned out.

These four roster developments, however, did catch a lot of us off guard, though.

No. 4: Jauan Jennings being 49ers’ third-best wide receiver

After failing to impress enough during his rookie 2020 training camp, subsequently landing on the practice squad and then dealing with injuries there, wide receiver Jauan Jennings had some modestly impressive outings in 2021’s camp, suggesting he was a safe bet to make the 53-man roster.

At the time, though, the focal point for San Francisco’s No. 3 wide receiver was solely on Trent Sherfield, who was tearing things up in training camp and into the preseason. Further attention was given to the veteran, Mohamed Sanu, pushing Jennings back to the periphery.

Over 17 weeks, though, it’s been Jennings who has emerged as the No. 3 option behind Samuel and fellow wideout Brandon Aiyuk. And while few would jump up and down about Jennings’ 18 receptions for 188 yards and two touchdowns, those numbers actually rank him third at the position this deep in the season.

That should put Jennings into a solid position to make an even bigger dent on the roster in 2022, provided he continues to showcase his physical abilities as a tertiary threat.