The San Francisco 49ers added an intriguing wrinkle to the offense when they drafted rookie wide receiver Danny Gray in the third round.
When it comes to national conversations around the San Francisco 49ers, the focus is always on the offensive side and specifically on a new face in place—and rightfully so. The impact of switching from Jimmy Garoppolo to Trey Lance is, by far, the biggest story in the Bay Area, but head coach Kyle Shanahan has to be smiling about the potential of another offensive addition who is drawing rave reviews in the preseason: wide receiver Danny Gray.
The Niners drafted Gray in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft as a speedy receiver out of Southern Methodist. Last season, Gray caught 49 passes for 803 yards and 9 touchdowns, good for a healthy 16.4 yards/catch average. Those totals are even more impressive when you consider that opponents played toward Gray’s big-play ability and still he put up team-leading totals.
Gray was especially impressive during the week of the Senior Bowl last winter, which gave NFL teams a better understanding of how his game might translate to the pro level. He practiced quite well and ended up being the fastest player timed during the game.
That speed to take the top off of defenses is what is most exciting about Gray when it comes to making Shanahan smile. The Niners haven’t had a true deep threat in the arsenal for a bit, and if Gray can provide results early, then opponents are going to be stretched that much further in an offense that already boasts several playmakers.
Beyond the speed, however, it’s important to note that Gray isn’t just some track star. Those sorts of players aren’t all that hard to find in the NFL, but what makes Gray a bit more likely to succeed is that he’s received plenty of praise from scouts about his ability to track the ball and his excellent hands. If Lance can hit him in stride, Gray can be especially productive in space.
Gray does feature a slight build and, like most rookie receivers, his route-running and technique needs significant attention. Depending on his work ethic and the Niners’ demands, Gray might be his own worst enemy in this regard. However, if he proves to be a quick learner, the 49ers might have a field-stretching weapon in their arsenal that will only serve to open things up even more for the likes of Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle.