Real Reason 49ers Drafted WR Ricky Pearsall

The San Francisco 49ers were never expected to take a wide receiver in the first round of the 2024 NFL draft.

Offensive line flooded most of the mock drafts with some cornerback mocks sprinkled in. But the 49ers went against the majority of mock drafts by drafting Florida wide receiver Ricky Pearsall with pick No. 31.

Pearsall played three years at the University of Florida for a total of 38 games. He tallied 147 catches for 2,212 yards and 13 touchdowns both outside and in the slot.

The curious part is that Pearsall never registered a 1,000 yard receiving season, so why did the 49ers find him to be a player that they had to have? Kyle Shanahan explains why the 49ers drafted Pearsall in the first round.

“He just plays the position real well,” said Shanahan.

“I mean, whether he was outside, inside, either receiver, all three of the positions, he can separate down the field, he can separate underneath. He’s got really good hands, extremely smart, very well developed.

“You can tell he is, I guess I’d call it a gym rat or something because you can just see he’s worked on his routes, put in a lot of hours because you can see it on tape and there’s really nothing he can’t do. He can fit in whatever role based off the other guys.”

Initially, the drafting of Pearsall seemed like a reach. He was someone that most draft analysts projected to go in the second round of the draft.

The 49ers could’ve traded down at least a few spots to gain a bit of draft capital and then take him. But, they elected to draft him in the first round anyways. It isn’t necessarily an indictment on the talent of Pearsall. He is a solid player for sure.

However, the NFL draft is all about value and Pearsall at pick No. 31 felt a little too rich at the time. And given that the 49ers could’ve used more picks to retool their roster, it seemed like a missed opportunity to cash in. Then again, the logic behind it for the 49ers is sound.

For starters, drafting Pearsall in the first round means the 49ers get the fifth-year option they can exercise on his rookie deal. Having that option alone is everything since wide receiver isn’t stable for the 49ers in the long-term.

Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings are both essentially on one-year deals. Jennings would be tough to imagine returning in 2025 and Aiyuk is currently waiting on a contract extension if the 49ers seek that out. As for Samuel, his contract is easier to move off of with little consequence should the 49ers look to cut ties with him

That is likely why the 49ers drafted Pearsall. He is more similar to Samuel than he is to Aiyuk. He has versatility of playing inside, outside, and in gadget roles. Now, Samuel is the better player with the ball in his hands, but Pearsall has him beat as a route runner and beating press man-to-man coverage.

“He’s got the 40 to still get on top of people on the outside, which is where that starts a little bit,” said Shanahan.

“I mean, you just got to have a threat of that to scare guys in a go route. And if you can do that, you can separate on the other routes, but he can get in and out of his break very well.

“He’s not huge, but he’s still got a good body to where he can handle it on any side or at any length of a corner. So, I mean, all of our receivers who play outside, they also play inside. So we kind of want a guy who can do it all.”

Drafting a wide receiver wasn’t something anyone could’ve foreseen from the 49ers in the first round. However, it is indicative that they are looking for more polished route runners to set up a successful passing game for Brock Purdy.

The connection of Pearsall and Purdy will be an intriguing one to follow for years to come.



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