Gray offers 49ers more than just top-flight receiver speed


SANTA CLARA — The 49ers finally got their top-flight speed guy in SMU wide receiver Danny Gray.

San Francisco hasn't had a speedy receiver heavily involved in its offense since Marquis Goodwin nearly broke the 1,000-yard mark in 2017. While coach Kyle Shanahan has been able to create a productive offensive scheme without it, adding the element of over-the-top speed could be a game-changer.

Gray, who ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, was selected by the 49ers on Friday as the No. 105 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

“I do think there’s fast guys and then guys ahead of those guys, and I think Danny is one of them,” Shanahan said Saturday. “There’s anywhere from one to five in the draft, and I think there was more in this draft than usual.”

Shanahan added that it’s not just speed that Gray brings to the table but great hands and a toughness that normally isn't seen in a deep threat. Those three elements made Gray an easy target who complements the receivers on the roster.

Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings and Brandon Aiyuk all bring different qualities to the field, but the one thing they all have in common is their willingness to run over opposing defenders while recording valuable yards after catch.

“What I like about Danny, I would say his No. 1 trait was speed, but his No. 2 trait was toughness,” Shanahan said. “I think that’s a rare quality for those to be one and two, so I definitely like that about him a lot.

“The really fast guys do not have as good hands as others and you try to see who is the toughest, who stays the healthiest, so you hope all those things stay together.”

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49ers general manager John Lynch also was very impressed by Gray, sharing that he jumped off the screen on film. Lynch saw more than just the yards-after-catch ability for which 49ers skill players are known.

“He can take that ball, he’s got that toughness, so he’s kind of fearless,” Lynch said. “But he can also find his way. We call it slashing. He slashes his way through the defense, and that was fun to find a guy with that much speed who also has the other elements.”

Gray played at Blinn College in 2019 before transferring to SMU. In his final season as a Mustang, Gray registered 49 receptions for 802 yards and nine touchdowns, giving him an average of 16.4 yards per catch.

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