Image Credit: University of Tennessee
One aspect the San Francisco 49ers have been lacking since Terrell Owens was traded nearly two decades ago has been reliability in the wide receiver corps. Entering the 2020 season, head coach Kyle Shanahan will have an almost entirely revised stable of receivers to work with. They added a pair of receivers in the 2020 draft and will be getting Jalen Hurd and Trent Taylor back from injury. One of the most interesting additions is seventh round rookie Jauan Jennings. How will Shanahan use him to shake up the offense?
Jennings, a 6’3” 206-pound Tennessee Volunteer, will join Hurd as the tallest targets on the outside for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. His skill set works perfectly to fit into the “big slot” role that teams across the league have been utilizing. Savvy route running and a penchant for catching the ball away from his body make him the ideal target between the hash marks. Jennings is a bully across the middle of the field who is not afraid of a little contact and will not hesitate to lower his head running through defenders.
In college, Jennings’ alpha dog mentality led to a confrontation between him and Vanderbilt punt returner Justice Shelton-Mosley after a play that ended with the Shelton-Mosley having his head stepped on by Jennings. While the video is inconclusive, Jennings was slapped with a first-half suspension of Tennessee’s 2019 bowl game. Some have marked this as a negative for him coming into the draft, which could have led to his tumble down draft boards.
Shanahan has always valued speed from all positions on the offensive side of the ball, making Jennings somewhat of an anomaly in this offense. His dust up was not the only negative scouts saw when going through his profile leading up to the draft. With the COVID-19 quarantines cancelling college pro days across the country, the only 40-yard dash time Jennings was able to give teams was a lackluster 4.72 at the combine. Jennings’s play speed is faster than that but not by much. All of his motions on the field have a purpose so that he does not rely on speed to be the difference in separation from the defenders.
All told, Jauan Jennings is the latest late-round wide receiver drafted by the 49ers that has fans excited. His size and strength are two qualities the Faithful haven’t seen suit up in the red and gold for quite some time. If Jennings can show that speed isn’t the only thing that matters at the next level, his mentality and toughness will quickly earn the respect of the fans and his quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo.
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