Jalen Hurd has yet to appear in a regular-season NFL game, but the former third-round draft pick has both 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and NBC Sports NFL analyst Peter King intrigued going into 2021.
“Great X-factor,” Kyle Shanahan told King regarding Hurd's status as the 49ers' X-factor. “Honestly, he’s probably mine on this team too. He’s got to stay healthy so he can be a big factor here. You get your heart broken and you get frustrated because you know how great he’d be in the offense. But he’s just as frustrated. It’d be a hell of a bonus to have him.”
Hurd is an interesting player, to say the least. A former five-star recruit coming out of high school as a running back, Hurd transitioned to the receiver position during his college career, a position his 6-foot-4 frame seemed more equipped for.
His rookie season ended before it started as he was placed on injured reserve with a back injury after a strong debut in an NFL uniform. Hurd caught two touchdowns in his first preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, showing off both his strength and athleticism in running through defenders for the first, and his positioning and football IQ in hauling in a fade for the second.
Hurd hoped to have a bounceback season in 2020, but he was forced to miss another full campaign after tearing his ACL in mid-August.
King acknowledged that the 49ers have an opening at slot receiver that Hurd could slide into if he stays healthy this season. With his experience in the backfield, Hurd also could be utilized in the same sweep and reverse actions Shanahan has employed Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk in over the past few years.
Hurd has looked healthy so far through training camp, and will have a chance to crack the receiver rotation in 2021.
As long as he can stay off the training table, don't be surprised if Hurd ends up being the "big factor" Shanahan believes he could be.