Ex-Broncos WR, Return Specialist Signing with 49ers: Report

GETTY River Cracraft #11 of the Denver Broncos returns a punt against the Los Angeles Chargers at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on December 30, 2018 in Denver, Colorado.

After working out four different receivers on Tuesday, the San Francisco 49ers have elected to go with a former Denver Bronco.

According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapaport, San Francisco is adding former Bronco and Washington State Cougar River Cracraft to the roster, adding another option for the 49ers amid an injury ordeal that has seen a few different receivers go down with issues.

Cracraft has a relatively minimal resume at the NFL level, but the 49ers wouldn’t sign the 25-year-old if he didn’t impress in training camp, especially when competing against former Chicago Bears receiver Kevin White and fellow veterans Justin Hardy and Johnny Holton.

However, despite the minimal amount of playing time, Cracraft does have a variety of tools that the 49ers could end up finding valuable if he makes the final roster.

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Cracraft’s Background

Cracraft’s signing in Santa Clara, California is a bit of a homecoming, as the receiver hails from Santa Margarita, California, which is about halfway to Los Angeles from the Bay Area.

Coming out of high school, Cracraft headed to Pullman, Washington to play under then-head coach Mike Leach. Cracraft was impressively consistent while with the Cougars, never bringing in less than 600 receiving yards and never going over 800 receiving yards in his four years with Washington State.

After 2701 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns, Cracraft went undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft cycle and worked out with the New England Patriots before eventually joining the Broncos as a practice squad member before eventually moving up to the main roster for parts of 2018 and 2019.

The majority of Cracraft’s contribution came in the return game, in which he returned 12 punts for a total of 40 yards and three kickoff returns for 43 yards.

While he didn’t get many opportunities on offense, his sole NFL catch was a relatively big one, coming on a 44-yard bomb from quarterback Case Keenum.

Keenum launches deep pass to Cracraft for 44 yardsDenver Broncos quarterback Case Keenum launches a deep pass to his wide receiver River Cracraft for 44 yards.2019-01-01T00:47:54Z

There’s not a ton of conclusions to draw from one play, but that is an excellent high-point catch from Cracraft, and it’s at least an example of what he can do in a regular-season game.

Cracraft’s Fit with the 49ers

In a recent article, White was considered to be the receiver of the work-out group to have the best upside, but it appears as if the 49ers went with the guy that impressed the most in the opportunity he was given.

What’s particularly interesting about Cracraft’s addition is that it’s another returning option for San Francisco, despite the team retaining their returners from last season and adding veteran return option Tavon Austin earlier this month.

If the team hasn’t been overly impressed by Austin or other options, Cracraft may have an in to a final roster spot if he can impress as a special teams weapon.

It’s hard to find a scenario that Cracraft works his way to the No. 5 or No. 6 receiver spots barring injury, and his chances of making the final roster remain slim even with his special teams skills.

That being said, a practice squad spot for a utility tool like Cracraft makes perfect sense, and if that’s the basis for a good signing, then Cracraft only offers upside going forward.

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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.