Jauan Jennings

Jauan Jennings, 49ers' seventh-round draft pick, signs rookie contract

Jauan Jennings, 49ers' seventh-round draft pick, signs rookie contract

The 49ers locked down another member of their 2020 NFL Draft class, signing receiver Jauan Jennings to his four-year rookie contract. The team announced the pact on Wednesday morning after officially bringing their seventh-round selection into the fold.

Jennings was the No. 217 overall selection and should get paid according to his draft slot. Per overthecap.com, he should make an estimated $3.406 million over the life of the contract, which includes a $111,024 signing bonus.

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Jennings is a big, physical receiver who had an excellent 2019 campaign, totaling 59 receptions for 969 yards and eight touchdowns. He overcame some rocky off-field moments as an underclassman, but has matured and evolved into a team captain and the 2019 team MVP.

Jennings must battle for a roster spot in his rookie training camp, but there’s also an opportunity for him to make an early impact with Deebo Samuel down with a foot injury. Richie James also is out for a while with a broken wrist.

[RELATED: Jauan Jennings’ dad hopes 49ers rookie can build NFL career he couldn't]

The 49ers also have signed fifth-round NFL draft pick Colton McKivitz. They have three draft picks remaining, including first-rounders Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk.

Draft-pick signings have been coming in a bit slower than normal, with teams reportedly waiting to conduct physicals at team facilities when players are allowed back. Coaches have started to return to the office in recent days, though the 49ers haven’t yet done so.

Deebo Samuel's injury opens door for Jalen Hurd, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings

Deebo Samuel's injury opens door for Jalen Hurd, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings

The 2020 season was set up to be Deebo Samuel's coming out party. The second-year receiver had been grinding all offseason in preparation to take over as the 49ers' No. 1 receiver.

Then Samuel broke his foot Tuesday in a workout with 49ers teammates in Nashville. He will have surgery Thursday and is expected to be out 12 to 16 weeks. Samuel tweeted he is optimistic he will be ready to go for the start of the season, but Jones fractures are tricky injuries. 49ers wide receiver Trent Taylor battled one as has Sammy Watkins and Kevin Durant. Fifty percent of athletes who have Jones fractures suffer incomplete healing.

While optimism is necessary, it should also be expected that Samuel might not be ready to go for Week 1and setbacks could occur.

The 49ers' offense lost Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason and now might be without Deebo Samuel for an unspecified period of time. While the 49ers still will have George Kittle -- the best tight end and one of the best pass-catchers in all of football -- and the ever-steady Kendrick Bourne, the loss of Samuel is a big one of their hopes of returning to the Super Bowl.

With Samuel on the shelf for an unspecified amount of time, the 49ers will need their other young receivers -- Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings and Jalen Hurd -- to step in and carry the load until Samuel can return.

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Big things already were expected of Aiyuk before Samuel went down. The 49ers traded up in the first round to draft Aiyuk with the No. 25 overall pick. The Arizona State product with an 81-inch wingspan and a devilish ability to break tackles now will go from the No. 3 pass-catching option behind Kittle and Samuel to the top wide receiver in the group. His ability to stretch the field vertically and turn a 6-yard slant into a 60-yard gain will now be needed more than ever as the 49ers look to march back to the Super Bowl and finish the job this time around.

Many thought Aiyuk might be brought along slowly to open the season, with Samuel, Kittle and Bourne getting the lion's share of targets from Jimmy Garoppolo after a truncated and odd offseason. There will be no time for them now. Aiyuk is the most talented receiver of the group and it will be important for him to avoid any rookie receiver hurdles in order to play an important role in the offense early on.

During his senior season at Arizona State, Aiyuk led the country in yards after contact with 378 and was third in yards after the catch at 710.  Kyle Shanahan now must shift his focus to finding even more creative ways to get the ball into Aiyuk's hands to create explosive plays.

While Aiyuk is the big name who will be counted on most to fill Samuel's shoes, this also should allow Jalen Hurd to play a bigger role initially.

The 49ers were excited about Hurd coming into last season, but a stress fracture in his back robbed Hurd of his rookie season.

Now medically cleared and participating in unofficial workouts, Hurd's health and availability will be of the utmost importance for the 49ers as Samuel works his way back.

After switching from running back to receiver in college to prolong his career, Hurd excelled out of the slot at Baylor and the 49ers hoped to use his versatility to confuse and carve up defenses. Hurd's ability to line up in the slot, in the backfield or take a short-yardage handoff makes him a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators. His power and fearlessness have impressed Garoppolo and the 49ers early on in his tenure.

Aiyuk's playmaking ability and Hurd's versatility are two things the 49ers will have to utilize in spades to keep the offense clicking if Samuel misses extended time.

[RELATED: 49ers could eye these free agent WRs after Deebo's injury]

But don't forget about Jauan Jennings.

The Tennessee product isn't your everyday seventh-round pick. Jennings was expected to be a third- or fourth-round pick, but poor NFL Scouting Combine scores coupled with a loaded draft class saw him slip all the way to the seventh round. That shouldn't bother the 49ers who have to love Jennings' big body and his ability to break tackles once he gets the ball in his hand.

Jennings had the third-highest-graded season in the SEC since 2018 and led all of Division 1 in missed tackles forced last season.

While Jennings doesn't have the speed of Aiyuk or the versatility of Hurd, Jennings' size, strong hands and YAC ability give the potential to play a role with Samuel out.

The sky is the limit for Samuel. He showed his vast potential during his rookie season and the recently retired Joe Staley said he believes Samuel could be the best receiver in the NFL.

It will be a big blow to the 49ers' offense if he is forced to miss an extended period of time.

But they have three young receivers who are capable of filling those shoes and now it's time for Aiyuk, Hurd and Jennings to step up.

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How Deebo Samuel's foot heals could make or break 49ers' 2020 season

How Deebo Samuel's foot heals could make or break 49ers' 2020 season

When Trent Taylor underwent surgery last August to repair a Jones fracture in his foot, the 49ers figured their slot receiver would be back for the bulk of the regular season.

It did not work out that way, as Taylor experienced repeated setbacks and ended up undergoing five surgeries.

The 49ers can only hope wide receiver Deebo Samuel’s return from the same injury goes a lot more smoothly.

Their season might depend on it.

Samuel on Tuesday sustained a broken fifth metatarsal, known as Jones fracture, the 49ers confirmed. NFL Media's Ian Rapoport first reported Samuel’s injury.

Samuel was scheduled to undergo surgery Thursday on his left foot.

The 49ers say they will have a better idea of Samuel’s timetable for return when the club reports to training camp in Santa Clara. Camp is scheduled to open in late-July.

Samuel wrote on social media that he expects to be back in 10 weeks.

Samuel sustained the injury during a workout with 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and some of his teammates Tuesday at Brentwood Academy in the Nashville area. The receiver tweeted Thursday that he'd be back in 10 weeks.

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The setback for Samuel and the 49ers is significant.

The 24-year-old was the team’s top wide receiver with 802 yards and three touchdowns on 81 receptions as a rookie. Samuel also gained 159 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. He set the Super Bowl record for rushing yards from a wide receiver with 53 yards on three attempts.

Samuel enters his second season as the 49ers’ clear No. 1 wide receiver after veteran Emmanuel Sanders signed with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent.

Tight end George Kittle is the 49ers’ top pass-catcher. That does not change. But with Samuel’s status unclear for the early part of the season, it remains to be seen if another receiver can step up to take some of the heat off Kittle.

Samuel’s absence for any period of time would be a major blow to coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Samuel is a threat on underneath, intermediate and deep routes. He is a tough runner with the ball in his hands. As his rookie season progressed, Samuel got better and better and better.

He could be expected to take his game to a higher level in 2020. Now, others might have to pick up the slack.

The 49ers invested a first-round draft pick in Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, a player with a similar skill set as Samuel.

Aside from Samuel, Kendrick Bourne is the 49ers’ top returning wide receiver.

Bourne caught 30 passes for 358 yards and five touchdowns. The 49ers got little production from any other returning wide receiver, as Dante Pettis and Richie James combined for just 17 receptions for 274 yards and three touchdowns.

The 49ers are optimistic about getting significant production from Taylor and Jalen Hurd. Both players missed all of last season after their performances during the early portion of training camp showed that they could be major parts of the team’s offense.

Taylor underwent surgery for a Jones fracture before the 49ers’ first preseason game. Hurd appeared in just one preseason game before missing the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his back.

[RELATED: NFL chief medic admits safe 2020 season is 'no easy task']

The 49ers invested a seventh-round draft pick in Tennessee receiver Jauan Jennings. They also signed veteran slot receiver Travis Benjamin.

San Francisco liked the group of wide receivers, mostly because it was easy to anticipate Samuel’s production taking a major leap.

Now, it is not as easy to be so optimistic about the collection of targets at wide receiver for Garoppolo.

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