With a historically loaded wide receiver class, all it took was one knock, one injury, one poor test to send your stock plummeting down the draft board.
Such was the case with Jauan Jennings. The Tennesee wide receiver entered the draft process as a likely third- or fourth-round pick after a solid Senior Bowl week. But Jennings tested horribly at the NFL Scouting Combine, running a 4.72 40-yard dash and only recording a 29-inch vertical. Those numbers are good for the 11th and third percentile respectively.
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The 49ers took a flier on Jennings in the seventh round of the draft, choosing to focus on his YAC ability rather than a poor combine performance. Jennings' coach at Tennessee, Jeremey Pruitt, doesn't care about his former receiver's lackluster combine effort.
“I don’t care what Jauan Jennings runs in the 40,” Pruitt said on 99.1 The Sports Animal prior to the draft. “I don’t care what he jumps on a vertical. All I know is, throw him the ball. You want the ball in the guy’s hands. Wherever he gets drafted, he’s going to play and he’s going to be an impact on the team.”
Jim Nagy, Senior Bowl director, had similar feelings.
“Don’t care about WR Jauan Jennings’ 40 time,” Nagy wrote on Twitter. “Or any other Combine numbers for that matter. There’s always outliers and Jennings is an outlier. It’ll be fun watching how many WRs drafted ahead of him that he out-plays at the next level.”
The truth of the matter is Jennings never was going to light up the radar gun at the combine. That's not his game. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Jennings excels at forcing missed tackles and dragging defenders into the end zone.
The 49ers filled their wide receiver need by drafting Brandon Aiyuk at No. 25 overall, but grabbing Jennings in the seventh round could give them even more firepower as Kyle Shanahan looks to build a YAC army around Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle.
Power Five coaches also told Yahoo! Sports' Pete Thamel that Jennings could be one of the steals of the entire draft.
“He’s very good with the ball in his hands. Hard to bring down and really good hands. Not super fast, that’s the only knock," a coach told Thamel.
Jennings forced 30 missed tackles last season, leading Division I just ahead of CeeDee Lamb and Justin Jefferson.
Normally a seventh-round receiver might struggle to make the roster, but there's a lot of reason to expect he'll join Aiyuk, Samuel and Kendrick Bourne as the core receivers.