Richie James

Watch 49ers WR Richie James work out with NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes

Watch 49ers WR Richie James work out with NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes

With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo playing in only three games in 2018,  Richie James Jr. didn't have a great opportunity to showcase his skills during his rookie campaign.

But the 23-year-old showed off his ability to catch the deep ball Thursday when he was spotted working out with reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.

James had a quiet rookie campaign, catching nine passes for 130 yards and a touchdown, while showcasing some promise as a return man.

[RELATED: John Lynch believes free agency work set 49ers up for 2019 NFL Draft]

The 49ers could use another weapon at wide receiver, so perhaps the Middle Tennessee State product could emerge as a deep threat for Jimmy G in 2019.

While we probably shouldn't read too much into a March workout video, it's hard to deny James looked good hauling in the effortless deep ball from Mahomes. 

Richie James ready to follow George Kittle's lead, focus on his craft

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USATSI

Richie James ready to follow George Kittle's lead, focus on his craft

SANTA CLARA - Richie James Jr. can’t wait to start his offseason program so he can focus on developing his craft. The 49ers rookie wide receiver saw how it helped George Kittle succeed in his second year, and he plans to follow the tight end’s lead.

Preparing for the draft is not the same as preparing for a season in the NFL. Training for NFL Combine tests like the bench press and the 40-yard dash isn’t something that transfers into on-field production. James is excited for his full offseason to really develop his game.

“It’s actually a dream come true to be honest with you,” James said. “You’re not focused on what you’ve dreamed of doing, You can focus on your craft. I don’t have school, I can literally just think about football.” 

Kittle was very vocal when asked what contributed to his jump in production that led to an AP All-Pro second team nod in his second year. He credited being able to work on the small things that would improve his play while on the field, instead of preparing for pro-days and the NFL Combine.

“If you look at George between last year and this year,” James said, “you will see a difference. That’s because he got comfortable, and that’s all you need. Once you get a player comfortable in the system, that’s when they feel like they can do everything.” 

James also notes that getting his rookie season under his belt has helped him a great deal. Now he knows what to expect. 

“I love that I got my first year over with,” James said. “And I got experience and I got my feet wet. There are so many things I know I can work on, and I’m really proud that I can recognize that. I can’t wait." 

One of the things that James said he did learn during his rookie year is to have a short memory. James muffed a punt that resulted in a Seahawks touchdown in the team’s blow out loss in Week 13. Two weeks later he bounced back and returned a punt for 97 yards when facing Seattle for the second time. 

“It’s really hard to have a short memory,” James said. “You think about it, you’re putting yourself in the same situation, seeing the same thing. That’s a mental thing. I know I can catch punts. That’s a thing I can say I learned from. And then I made up for it.” 

One thing that James is not afraid to do is put in work. He didn’t take a break from football in college and doesn’t plan on lessening his dedication to it now that he’s in the NFL. 

“In college I had the chance to go home during the breaks but I stayed at school,” James said. “I stayed for my last three years. I love being creative during the long time off to actually do stuff. I can’t wait. This is going to be fun.” 

“I’m that type of player that once I get comfortable in the system, I’m going to show my best.”

Richie James Jr. gives 49ers glimpse of his future in win vs. Seahawks

Richie James Jr. gives 49ers glimpse of his future in win vs. Seahawks

SANTA CLARA -- Richie James Jr.’s rookie season hasn't gone as he envisioned.

Yet, in an otherwise disappointing freshman campaign, the wide receiver provided the 49ers with a huge special-teams play Sunday in their 26-23 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium.

James didn't nail down a role as the 49ers’ slot receiver when he had a chance. He also was taken off punt returns when he muffed punts in back-to-back weeks.

But in Week 15, he made his contribution to the team with a 97-yard touchdown on a kickoff return after the Seahawks jumped out to a 6-0 lead. James became the first 49ers rookie to score on a kickoff return since Amos Lawrence in 1981.

James received some great blocking, broke a tackle, made kicker Sebastian Janikowski miss and outran the Seahawks’ pursuers in route to the end zone. Then, James kept sprinting along the back of the end zone and to the 49ers’ sideline.

“I wanted to keep running,” James said after the win. “I ain’t lying, I was tired for at least three series after that. I had to catch my breath for a minute. I shouldn’t have done that, but I did. “

James was a seventh-round draft pick from Middle Tennessee. He said he hopes the learning experience of his rookie season will make him a better player next season on a team that he expects to make a large leap.

“For me, it’s disappointing because I wanted more,” James said. “But at the same time, I have to be conscious that I made an NFL roster as a seventh-round draft pick. A whole year on an NFL roster is not a bad thing. Yeah, I can do so much more. That’s what next year is for. That’s what I build off.”

James has appeared in 11 games this season, catching five passes for 94 yards. Even though Trent Taylor has taken over as the 49ers' slot receiver, James believes he's growing more comfortable as he comprehends coach Kyle Shanahan’s playbook.

You've all the heard the words,” James said. “You get into it, and things have started to click. I’ve gotten so much better over time, learning the offense and learning concepts.

“It gives me something to look forward to, for sure. It’s going to be a huge year next year with everybody coming back from injuries. This team is going to be unreal.”