The 2020 season marks the 49ers’ quest to return to the Super Bowl on their ‘Revenge Tour.’ Only this time – the aim is to come away with the Lombardi trophy. And due to the surreal circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re going to need the help of these lesser-known Niners.
For the 49ers, strength in depth has always been a priority. When starting tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey missed time last season, backups Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill stepped up in a big way.
Furthermore, 49ers general manager, John Lynch, has a knack for finding talent in the later stages of the NFL draft. George Kittle and Trent Taylor were both fifth-round picks in 2017, Fred Warner was a third-rounder in 2018, and Dre Greenlaw was selected in the sixth round in 2019.
With that in mind, let’s breakdown the top five lesser-known Niners to make an impact in 2020.
5. D.J. Jones – Nose Tackle
D.J. Jones isn’t truly under the radar for most Niner fans.
Jones was having a breakout year for the Niners in 2019 before an ankle injury ended his season in December. Per Sports Info Solutions, Jones registered two sacks, seven quarterback pressures and two tackles for loss (TFL’s) in 2019. Highlights include taking the Seahawks and Packers interior linemen’s lunch money.
With Jones and rookie Javon Kinlaw clogging up the middle in San Francisco’s wide-9 defense, expect the run defense to become a whole lot more stout in 2020.
4. Charlie Woerner – Tight End
Tight end Charlie Woerner was drafted by the Niners in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Woerner was primarily known as a blocker in college. Although, if camp reports are to be believed, Woerner might have some moves in the passing game. Per The Athletic’s David Lombardi, Woerner shook Fred Warner in a one-on-one and made an impressive high-point grab in training camp.
While it would be more than bold to say the 49ers have drafted another George Kittle, it certainly seems like Lynch is attempting to make lightning strike twice.
3. Marcell Harris – Defensive Back
Marcell Harris is poised for a breakout year in 2020. The 49ers do seem set at safety, with Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt nailed on as starters for the upcoming season. Harris can, and will, make the most of the opportunity when it comes.
Harris started four games in 2019, registering 40 tackles and one forced fumble. That forced fumble being against the Ravens in December when Harris ripped the ball out of Lamar Jackson’s hands.
Harris did miss seven tackles out of 340 snaps, per Niners Nation. A stat that must improve if Harris is to develop into a starter. However, if Harris can sure up his tackling, he will see the field more often in 2020.
2. JaMycal Hasty
To paraphrase Around the NFL’s Marc Sessler, Kyle Shanahan could get a Raggedy Ann Doll to rush for 1,000 yards a season. That’s not to denounce JaMychal Hasty’s ability, but to emphasize just how impactful he could be this season. Specifically under Shanahan.
Per College Football Reference, Hasty ran for 627 yards in his senior year at Baylor, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, scoring five touchdowns.
On the field, Hasty has all the attributes you’d want in a Shanahan running back. Hasty possesses an ideal blend of speed, agility, and instincts – all traits necessary to hit those holes on the patented Shanahan outside zones.
The former Baylor Bear has also been impressing in training camp. Hasty has been ‘turning heads’, per the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch. After excelling in non-padded practices, fellow tailback Jerick McKinnon told Branch, “He’s been really impressive”.
With the war of attrition that is about to commence in the 2020 season, be sure to keep an eye out for Hasty. After all, Kyle Shanahan turned Raheem Mostert from a gunner into a 300-yard runner.
1. Jauan Jennings – Wide Receiver
With the tragic news of Jalen Hurd’s ACL tear, the brutal, yet all too real maxim of next man up offers an opportunity to Jauan Jennings.
In Jennings’ senior year of college, he amassed 969 yards receiving and nine total touchdowns. As a result, the Niners drafted Jennings in the seventh round this past year.
Standing at 6’3 inches tall, Jennings offers an alternative build to the other 49er receivers. However, despite Jennings’ size, expect Shanahan to move the rookie all around the line of scrimmage. Especially in the slot, where Jennings can use his frame to cause serious mismatch problems for smaller nickels.
Jennings already had a good shot at making the roster before Hurd’s injury. Now, with Hurd gone for the year, it seems likely that we could see this lesser-known member of the Niners make an impact in 2020.
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