49ers roster 2024: Danny Gray merely a bygone reminder of the Trey Lance era

Remember when Danny Gray was supposed to be the downfield weapon that'd unlock the Niners offense for Trey Lance?
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Danny Gray (6)
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Danny Gray (6) / Jamie Schwaberow/GettyImages

The 49ers seem to have little use for Danny Gray entering 2024, reminding fans of his original intent as a deep threat for now-Cowboys QB Trey Lance.

The San Francisco 49ers' aggressive trade-up for quarterback Trey Lance at No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft failed miserably.

Lance, of course, never turned into the franchise centerpiece. After suffering a season-ending injury during what was supposed to be his first full year as a starter in 2022, and then following the rise of quarterback Brock Purdy, Lance was ultimately jettisoned to the Dallas Cowboys just prior to the start of the 2023 season.

Because of that trade, the Niners wiped their hands clean of that massive whiff. But there are still remnants of the offense San Francisco tried to build around Lance.

Namely, wide receiver Danny Gray, whom the 49ers drafted the following year in Round 3 out of SMU.

Gray followed another draft whiff, running back Tyrion Davis-Price, who was selected earlier in the round. And while many a fan questioned the Davis-Price selection, most saw Gray as an excellent pickup.

The 6-foot-0, 200-pound receiver ran a 4.33 40-yard time at the NFL Scouting Combine prior to being drafted, after all.

Despite having questionable hands, Gray was supposed to be the Niners' newest deep-threat weapon, someone who could take the top off opposing defenses while taking advantage of Lance's strong arm.

Well, that never happened.

Danny Gray has been a massive disappointment for 49ers

In year one, Gray failed to do a lot of the other intangible things that'd translate into more playing time, namely serving as a perimeter blocker, which didn't earn him many points with head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Plus, in light of other top wideouts on San Francisco's roster -- Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings -- Gray's chances to make an immediate impact were going to be limited anyway.

His stat line over 2022? A mere one catch for 10 yards on seven targets.

Seeing action on just 87 offensive snaps, it was clear Gray wasn't a priority. Despite showing some modest promise in 2023, including an uptick in his blocking abilities during training camp, an injury ultimately forced him on injured reserve.

The 49ers opted not to active him from IR late in the season. In a results-based game, it's hard to classify Gray as anything else but a disappointment.

Danny Gray faces long odds to make 49ers' 53-man roster in 2024

Now entering year three of his pro career, it seems as if Gray is already being telegraphed off the roster.

Samuel, Aiyuk and Jennings are all still present, and the Niners elected to draft two more wideouts to crowd the back end of the depth chart, Ricky Pearsall in Round 1 and another speedster, Jacob Cowing, in Round 4.

Related story: 3 Niners in danger of being cut after 2024 NFL Draft

That's five names right there, and even if San Francisco keeps six receivers on its 53-man roster, Gray will have to outperform other fringe wideouts like Trent Taylor, Terique Owens, Chris Conley and Tay Martin to stand the remotest of chances.

Such an outcome seems unlikely.

Instead, Gray's final chance with the 49ers appears destined to turn into a whimper, a mere reminder of what could have been if both he and Lance emerged as a legitimate one-two offensive punch.

Lance's claim to such an outcome never materialized, and it appears as if Gray is following suit.

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