General manager John Lynch and the 49ers had the idea that Samuel would only improve after six total touchdowns and just over 800 receiving yards as a rookie in 2019, and while the current timetable for Deebo’s return would get him back for the majority of the season, fellow San Francisco receiver Trent Taylor can attest to how hard recovery can be from a jones fracture after missing the entirety of the 2019 season.
But while the 49ers will hope and assist Samuel in recovery, it also sheds light on the plethora of receiving options the 49ers currently boast, which includes the likes of 2020 NFL Draft first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk, veteran Kendrick Bourne and Jalen Hurd, who was pegged as 2019’s Offensive Rookie of the Year by NBC Sports’ Peter King.
There’s a lot of different backgrounds at play, but for better or worse, an opportunity has risen for members of San Francisco’s receiver group.
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Is Brandon Aiyuk the 49ers’ No. 1 Receiver?
What a spot Aiyuk is in. 1192 yards in his final year at Arizona State, drafted in the first round by a team that just made the Super Bowl, and somewhat unfortunately, now finds himself as potentially the 49ers’ top option.
Aiyuk brings long arms, innate quickness and a pedigree that is hard-fought rather than given after he worked his way out of junior college ball and into the Pac-12, where he also had to earn his starting spot and learn from 2019 NFL Draft first-rounder N’Keal Harry.
There’s so much to like about Aiyuk, but there’s so much unproven too. That being said, a chance to become the top receiver to start the 2020 season is one Aiyuk can’t take for granted.
This is, of course, without counting tight end George Kittle, but in terms of wide receivers, Aiyuk was considered a lock for the No. 2 spot and a starting position. It would only make sense that he would move up the totem pole, but the 49ers will certainly have a competition to see who’s the first to line up.
Is Jalen Hurd Ready to Step Up?
Since being selected by the 49ers in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Hurd has received a lot of hype. A force of nature for Tennessee and Baylor in college, Hurd hasn’t been an out-and-out receiver for very long after playing as a running back with the Volunteers.
That’s encouraging, as Hurd provides incredible athleticism already. If he’s only improving in terms of technical ability, Peter King’s comments on Hurd before his injury in 2019 could still be accurate in terms of predicting the receiver’s success.
“I walked out of that camp, and we got in the car to go to the next place,” King said, “And the two women I was traveling with said, ‘Well, what was your impression?’ I said, ‘We just saw the 2019 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.’ [Hurd] is going to come out of nowhere. He’s going to be fantastic.”
Kendrick Bourne Continues to Work
If you follow Kendrick Bourne’s social media, you’ll see that he’s not only out working on his game everyday, he’s enjoying it. When you’ve got Garoppolo to throw with, that never hurts.
However, Bourne’s work will need to translate to in-game success. In three NFL seasons, Bourne has played an important role of being sneakily explosive but consistently reliable, especially with his nine touchdowns over the past two seasons.
However, for the fourth-year receiver to solidify himself as one of San Francisco’s key weapons, continuing to improve this offseason and opening the 2020 season with a boom is critical, especially since Deebo will be coming back for his spot in the first few weeks of the season.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, MT. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and follow Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.