The San Francisco 49ers receiving group can’t catch a break.
After a plethora of workouts and signings to deal with initial injuries to 49ers receivers Deebo Samuel and Richie James Jr., San Francisco continues to deal with an injury bug ahead of the 2020 season.
49ers plan to sign veteran WRs J.J. Nelson and Tavon Austin, pending physicals, per league source. Added depth in an area in which Deebo Samuel is likely to miss the start of the season.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 14, 2020
However, Nelson’s time with the 49ers has hit an early hurdle, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted out the news that the receiver suffered a knee injury and could be out for up to a month.
Another 49ers’ WR with another injury: JJ Nelson is expected to miss two to four weeks with a knee injury.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 28, 2020
It’s unfortunate for the player and for the team, especially when you consider Nelson’s proven success in the NFC West. However, the fact that he could be back in time for Week 1 is a silver lining on another dark injury cloud.
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49ers fans ought to be relatively familiar with Nelson, as the former University of Alabama-Birmingham standout became an important role player ever since he joined the Cardinals as a fifth-rounder in the 2015 NFL Draft.
After getting comfortable into the Arizona team as a rookie with 299 yards and 2 touchdowns, Nelson put up back-to-back 500-yard-plus seasons in 2016 and 2017, adding 6 touchdowns in 2016 to boot.
However, Nelson’s role was reduced dramatically in the 2018 season, which led to his eventual departure from the Cardinals and joining up with the Las Vegas Raiders.
The move to the Raiders didn’t quite pan out the way Nelson may have hoped, with the former Blazer totaling just 36 yards on four catches in 2019.
That being said, Nelson has proven ability and offers something as a reliable, mid-range receiver with enough speed to force teams to account for, which was likely one of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s primary reasons for signing the receiver.
The most interesting and possibly disappointing thing for Nelson is that he’s losing valuable time in a race for a final 53-man roster spot.
With seemingly constant injuries and issues springing up, the 49ers will likely hold on to as many of their receivers as long as they can before the start of the regular season, but Nelson now has to sit on the sidelines as his competitors more chances to prove themselves.
There are nine other receivers competing for spots and certain options like Austin and recently signed River Cracraft offer similar skillsets and value, and while Nelson does offers experience that the 49ers’ top receivers don’t have quite yet, that may not be enough of a hook for the 49ers and general manager John Lynch to keep Nelson around.
Either way, the 49ers will be fine, at least for now. If Nelson is very much in San Francisco’s plans for the 2020 season, he should be back in a reasonable amount of time, and if he’s not in their plans, they’ll just continue onward with the rest of their options.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.