Danny Gray has been 49ers most disappointing rookie in 2022

Danny Gray #6 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)
Danny Gray #6 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images) /

While the 49ers’ 2022 rookie class hasn’t quite delivered as much as originally thought, wide receiver Danny Gray might be disappointing more than the rest.

If a San Francisco 49ers fan was to travel back to the beginning of the 2022 preseason against the Green Bay Packers, it wouldn’t take too much to recall how quarterback Trey Lance delivered a bomb of a touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Danny Gray.

Gray, the Niners’ Round 3 pick of this year’s NFL Draft out of SMU, had one purpose: serving as a field-stretching deep threat because of his blazing-fast 4.33 40-yard speed.

Even before Gray turned heads during the preseason, it wasn’t hard to find excitement about his potential immediately after San Francisco used that third-round pick on him. Probably because fans understood his speed would complement the 49ers’ other two wide receivers, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, and Lance would have the arm strength to hit Gray deep down the field.

Halfway through Gray’s rookie season, though, there have been almost zero reasons to continue the hype.

Danny Gray has been disappointing amid the hype of 49ers 2022 NFL Draft class

For a quick review, the Niners’ 2022 NFL Draft class was as follows:

  • Round 2: EDGE Drake Jackson
  • Round 3: RB Tyrion Davis-Price
  • Round 3: WR Danny Gray
  • Round 4: OL Spencer Burford
  • Round 5: CB Samuel Womack
  • Round 6: OL Nick Zakelj
  • Round 6: DL Kalia Davis
  • Round 6: CB Tariq Castro-Fields
  • Round 7: QB Brock Purdy

Day-three picks don’t usually have the clout to create any sort of disappointment, which essentially leaves Gray, fellow third-round draftee Tyrion Davis-Price and San Francisco’s top pick, Drake Jackson, as the three who could.

Jackson has three sacks already in his rookie year, and he’s shaping up to be a complementary pass-rusher to the Pro Bowler, Nick Bosa, which is precisely what the 49ers wanted.

And while Davis-Price was certainly a shocking pick at the time, he didn’t exactly carry the hype that’d warrant any sort of disappointment anyway. If anything, Niners fans got that disappointment out of the way not long after Davis-Price’s name was announced.

As far as quantifying Gray’s disappointment, he has yet to catch a pass in regular-season action despite six targets over six games played.

Can Danny Gray turn it around for 49ers?

Gray isn’t going to usurp Samuel and Aiyuk. Not even close. And, judging by the notably small number of both snap counts and targets the rookie has received, Gray won’t be challenging veteran receivers like Jauan Jennings and Ray-Ray McCloud either.

Instead, Gray needs to work on some of the other intricate details about the position rather than just his No. 1 strength, speed, at least as pointed out by head coach Kyle Shanahan (h/t 49ers Webzone):

"He just has to continue to be more consistent, be able to do everything, down in and down out. You never know what plays you’re going to be in there on, so it can’t just be stuff that exactly fits your skillset.You have to be able to block, you have to be able to run the other routes, you have to know where to line up, and just all the things that rookies go through that just has to make him more consistent to beat out some of the guys that are in front of him."

These are partially rookie-level challenges for almost any receiver. At the same time not being able to perform these won’t fly with Shanahan, especially when other depth receivers like Jennings have essentially cut their teeth on excelling in blocking and other less-heralded tidbits.

As such, Gray might end up being something of a forgotten commodity his rookie year, and that’s a disappointment in year one considering how many fans were excited to see what he’d offer this season.

The disappointment doesn’t have to remain, though.

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