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Search for 49ers' No. 3 receiver to resume in training camp

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The combination of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, arguably, gives the 49ers one of the top pairings of young wide receivers in the league.

Beyond their top two, however, the 49ers have more questions than answers.

The 49ers lack a clear No. 3 receiver to replace Kendrick Bourne, who signed with the New England Patriots as a free agent this offseason.

“We're looking for the obvious third spot,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on Wednesday as he announced the conclusion of the team’s offseason program.

When the 49ers’ full squad next reports to work in Santa Clara in late-July, there might not be one reserve who is assured a spot on the roster.

Likewise, there is nobody who comes to camp with zero chance of making the regular-season roster.

“All of them, I believe, are NFL players, and all of them gave themselves a chance in OTAs to show us that and we'll see what they do in their 40 days away,” Shanahan said. “It'll be a fun competition to watch.

If everyone stays healthy it's going to be a battle. It's a good problem to have, though.”

The 49ers do not appear inclined to add another veteran wide receiver to compete for a roster spot, but Shanahan speaks as if he believes all the answers for the backup jobs are already on the team.

Richie James could be the front-runner, if he can find consistency.

James had nine receptions for 184 yards in a game last season against the Green Bay Packers when the 49ers’ top three receivers were out of action. His output was 50 yards more than the best receiving game of Samuel’s NFL career, and it was 65 yards better than anything Aiyuk produced as a rookie.


James missed time in training camp with a hamstring injury.

“Richie he's been here for a lot and helped us a ton,” Shanahan said. “And right before he got hurt or tweaked something, I thought he was having a hell of a camp. So I'm excited to see him come back.”

Mohamed Sanu, who turns 32 in training camp, has the most experience of any receiver on the roster. Sanu looked good in organized team activities last week. Travis Benjamin returns after opting out of last season.

Kevin White, the No. 7 overall pick of the Chicago Bears in 2015, will compete for a roster spot, along Trent Sherfield, Jalen Hurd, Jauan Jennings, Bennie Fowler, River Cracraft, Andy Jones and undrafted rookie Austin Watkins Jr.

Sherfield is likely to win a roster spot due to his contributions on special teams. Hurd is a promising prospect who was sidelined for his first two NFL seasons due to injuries.

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Although Samuel and Aiyuk have their spots on the team assured, Shanahan wants to place emphasis on both players developing their skills.

“They’ve got to put in a good camp and get through it healthy so we can get them to play up to their potential,” Shanahan said.

“After that, I've been happy with our group out there. A number of guys have a chance to try to earn that third role and we need a number of guys to make the roster to be ready for starting roles in case people get hurt.”

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