SANTA CLARA -- Wide receiver Jauan Jennings’ draft stock fell during the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine because of a painfully slow time in the 40-yard dash.
He tumbled to the seventh round, where the 49ers grabbed the Tennessee product with the No. 217 overall selection.
What was considered Jennings’ weakness a year-and-a-half ago is now one of his strengths, according to the data the 49ers gather after every practice.
“Speed is deceiving,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on 49ers Game Plan. “Yeah, when you run 4.7 at the combine, you’re not one of the blazers. But he’s one of the fastest guys out there on the GPS each day.
“How he runs each play, how he comes off the ball, people would be surprised.”
Jennings ran a time of 4.72 in the 40 at the combine, which placed him 44th out of 45 wide receivers.
Shanahan said he believes Jennings spent more time working on actual football skills before the combine instead of working on skills that are specific to timing well with straight-ahead speed.
“The first 10 yards are everything in the 40,” Shanahan said. “I think it’s how a guy prepares for that. Jauan, I picture him, he is more of a football player.
“(It was) probably not the best decision for him not to prepare for the combine as hard as he could, but I’m glad he did. That allowed us to get him in the seventh round. I’m glad that he’s here.”
Jennings, it turns out, has the speed to play at the highest level. Shanahan said Jennings also benefits from being able to go all-out for a long period of time.
“When he gets in shape, he can do it all day,” Shanahan said. “His first play is the same speed as his last play. Not everyone in the league is like that. I think his stamina is different than other guys.”
Jennings spent his rookie season on the 49ers’ practice squad and likely would have been elevated at some point if not for a nasty hamstring injury.
After a strong offseason program and training camp, Jennings made the 49ers’ 53-man roster for the start of the season. He made a major contribution in the team’s 17-11 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles with an 11-yard touchdown catch. He finished the game with his first two NFL receptions for 17 yards.
Jennings could ultimately settle into a role in which he fills many of the responsibilities that Kendrick Bourne held with the club over the past four seasons. Bourne caught 140 passes for 1,796 yards and 11 touchdowns in 60 games over four seasons. He signed with the New England Patriots as an unrestricted free agent.
Jennings showed some Bourne-like enthusiasm and flair when he broke into dance upon the completion of his press conference following the win in Philadelphia.
“Their styles are similar in how they play,” Shanahan said of Jennings and Bourne. “They’re both a little different, too, in how they act. We enjoy both of them a lot.”