Slot receiver is a missing piece to the offense of the 49ers.
With Kendrick Bourne gone, they don't have that clear-cut player who can slide into that spot.
Sure, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are capable, but the 49ers are going to want to keep them on the outside since they excel so much there. The draft seemed like the 49ers were going to address the slot position, but ultimately they decided to not take a receiver at all. It was quite a surprise to me since they have drafted a receiver every year since Kyle Shanahan became head coach in 2017.
Who can the 49ers look to fill in the slot receiver spot?
"I think we have some guys on our team who have done it," said Shanahan at his post-draft presser. "I think we have guys who are about to show they can do it. Hopefully guys like Jalen (Hurd) can get healthy and have a chance to compete with these guys, so he can show he can do it."
The 49ers will be looking for Jalen Hurd, Richie James Jr., and perhaps Mohammed Sanu or River Cracraft to step up there. Wide receiver has been where the 49ers have spent most of their draft capital under Shanahan. It is time they finally start letting their talent get some chances.
I believe James is the best to handle it right now. He demonstrated when given a sizeable workload last season that he can produce. He simply just needs the opportunities. That way, at least, the 49ers can ease Hurd back in. The guy has had a brutal start to his NFL career, from a back injury, to then suffering a torn ACL. Let Hurd take his time, then look to slowly increase his chances.
Until then, James is the ideal option there in terms of receivers on the roster. Taking the entire offense into account, Shanahan does incorporate his running backs there. Basically, he has never seen offensive players based on their position, but what they can do with their talents.
Shanahan also mentioned that just because there is vacancy at slot receiver does not mean they HAVE to address it or need it to be successful. That is true with what I just pointed out. Just because they do not have an exclusive slot receiver does not mean the offense cannot be successful.
The 49ers will look for their receivers to flourish and step up in the slot, but until then Shanahan can make it up with the other skill guys at his disposal.