Wes Welker has a plan for 49ers rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel.
Welker has been out of the game as a player for three seasons. But after practices in his first offseason as 49ers wide receivers coach, Welker remains on the field to run with Samuel while he goes through essential extra conditioning.
Samuel, who checked in at 5-foot-11, 214 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, has the body of a running back. Welker wants him to have the body of a slot receiver.
“I think he’s a guy that he can play inside or outside,” Welker said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “He’s definitely a bigger body, but he does have good quickness and speed and all those different things.
“Me and him, we keep on talking. If he does want to play in the slot, he’s going to have to lose a few pounds, so that’s something we’re working on now, and he’s working hard to do it. We’re going to keep on harping on him to do that. He’s had a great attitude about just going to keep working on it.”
Welker said Samuel must drop some pounds to enable him to better maneuver his body, change direction and exhibit more short-area quickness from the slot position.
“I love his size and I love his physicality and everything, but we’re still going to want to be able to use him on some of those plays were you really want him to get in and out of those breaks,” Welker said. “The lighter you are when you’re doing that, the better off you’re going to be.”
The 49ers invested two of their top three draft picks in players for Welker to groom. After selecting Samuel of South Carolina with the No. 36 overall pick, the 49ers came back in the third round to choose Baylor wide receiver Jalen Hurd.
Hurd (6-5, 226) played just one college season at wide receiver after playing his first three seasons at Tennessee as a running back, where he was just 440 yards short of becoming the school’s all-time leading rusher. Hurd opted to transfer after the Tennessee coaching staff declined his request to move from running back to wide receiver.
Hurd has not played wide receiver long enough to develop bad habits, but he is severely lacking in experience. He has sat out the team’s offseason program as he recovers from knee surgery in December.
“He’s been a little banged up this spring, so it’s been about the mental part for him,” Welker said of Hurd. “He’s missing out on a lot of reps out there right now, and he’s just got to get his body right and then, on top of that, just staying on top of the playbook because he’s not getting all those reps.
“With his size and athleticism of being able to play running back, being able to play wide receiver, being able to do a lot of different things, that’s a great matchup for us. Losing these reps and the different things we want to do with him kind of sets him back. So he’s got a lot of making up to and a lot of work ahead of him to get caught up.”