49ers Projected to Add ‘Powerful’ WR As Possible Jauan Jennings Replacement

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings

Getty San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings

The San Francisco 49ers are coming off a brutal end after a fantastic season, and the only thing to do now is try again. While they will still keep a large core of the roster together, they may need reinforcements at wide receiver.

Over the past month or two, several analysts and writers have projected the 49ers to draft a WR. The latest from The Athletic’s Nick Baumgardner sees them do that in the 3rd round by taking the son of Jerry Rice, USC standout Brenden Rice.

“You think Jerry Rice would let his son wear No. 80?” Baumgardner wrote on February 12. “If nothing else, Brendan Rice — an explosive, powerful 6-foot-3 X-receiver with speed and a famous dad — would know his way around the area.”

Obviously, Brenden Rice has a gargantuan shadow to step out of. But the 49ers, who have questions about the future of WR Brandon Aiyuk and pending free agent Jauan Jennings, could reload in a special way.

Rice is coming off a tremendous senior season with the Trojans. While he hasn’t become a household name at the college level, he has been one of QB Caleb Williams’ top targets over the past two years.

Brenden Rice Becomes Redzone Threat at USC

With his frame and speed, it only felt like a matter of time before Rice would develop into a redzone weapon. It did take three years for it to fully materialize, but he was the real deal in 2023.

After just 9 touchdowns over his first three college seasons at USC and Colorado, Rice totaled 12 touchdowns last year. Sports Reference shows that he set career-bests in nearly every statistical category, catching 45 passes for 791 yards to go with the 12 scores.

Rice saw his opportunities steadily rise year-to-year, but what may be most encouraging is his average yards per catch. After averaging 14.2 yards and 15.7 yards per catch in 2021 and 2022 respectively, Rice went for 17.6 yards per grab in 2023.

Not only is Rice scoring, he’s also making plays downfield. The 49ers have a top-notch deep threat in Aiyuk, but having a second player to worry about deep is never a bad thing.

Future of 49ers WR Jauan Jennings

While Aiyuk’s future remains a talking point, a potential exit from Jennings is almost as important. The 26-year-old threw for a TD and then caught another in the 2024 Super Bowl, after a season that was, in all honesty, par for the course.

But Jennings was a consistent factor in the playoffs, not just the Super Bowl. Besides his two scores, he ended his postseason run with 10 catches for 111 receiving yards in 3 games. And after two years of playing for close to the league minimum, Jennings is probably ready for some kind of raise.

The 49ers could certainly be the team to pay him. But it would be hard to giving him a significant raise when he had less catches and yards than he did in 2022. His playoff contributions were significant, but other teams will probably be willing to offer more lucrative deals than the 49ers are as they only have $570,000 in available cap space.

Jennings has been a solid No. 3 for quite some time, but the 49ers have higher priorities than keeping him.