With the San Francisco 49ers snapping an 18-year streak of selecting a wide receiver in the NFL draft last week, things could be looking up for former Beech High alum Jalen Hurd’s chances of seeing the field in 2021.
Kendrick Bourne departed for New England in free agency, leaving the 49ers with a receiver group of Hurd, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Richie James, Jauan Jennings, Travis Benjamin, Mohamed Sanu, River Cracraft, Trent Sherfield and undrafted free agent signing Austin Watkins.
“I’d always like to take a receiver,” 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters after the draft. “…But it’s got to be a guy you think can make your team. So that depends on where that round fell, and what was there when we got there.”
Samuel and Aiyuk are penciled in as SF’s No. 1 and 2 receivers, after parting with Trent Taylor in the offseason, the 49ers don’t have a clear-cut No. 3 or anyone who can line up in the slot.
Enter Hurd. The 25-year-old could be the reason Shanahan, with his expected return from a torn ACL last season, didn’t deem it necessary to select a wideout in last week’s draft. Prior to the injury, Shanahan said he envisioned using the 6-foot-3 Hurd in the slot, out of the backfield and as a blocker.
"We have some guys on our team who have (played in the slot)," Shanahan said. "Hopefully guys like Jalen can get healthy and have a chance to compete with these guys."
Hurd, who played running back at the University of Tennessee and receiver at Baylor, has missed the first two seasons of his NFL career due to injuries. Last August, he tore his ACL during practice, an injury that sidelined him all season. And he missed his rookie year with a stress fracture in his lower back.
"Jalen's rehab is going well," 49ers GM John Lynch said. "We're eager to get him back here because he's been rehabbing away. We check in regularly and he's doing a nice job.
“Jalen's always been a hard worker and has just had some tough luck with that stuff. He'll continue to work hard, and we think he'll be ready to go."
The Hendersonville native had three receptions for 31 yards and two touchdowns during the 2019 preseason — the only action he’s seen with the 49ers since they drafted him with the 67th overall pick in the 2019 draft.
If fully healthy, Hurd could compete for the 49ers’ No. 3 receiver spot and potentially be used as a swiss army knife out of the backfield or in the slot.
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