New 49ers pick Gray gives Lance another weapon to stretch field


SANTA CLARA — Danny Gray is just what Trey Lance will need to stretch the field for the 49ers' offense. 

The speedy SMU product was one of the club’s formal 30 interviews and with Lance’s arm strength, an understandable choice for John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan. Gray’s 4.33 40-yard dash is the first indicator that the young quarterback’s arm will be put to good use

“I bring elite speed, can create open space, and I’m a deep-ball threat,” Gray said on Friday. "I don’t really have a role yet, but whatever it is, I’m ready to play and I’m ready to come in and make an impact.”

The 49ers added Travis Benjamin for top-end speed in 2021 and while he appeared in 10 games, was only on the field for 40 offensive snaps and did not record a reception. Gray will likely be expected to see the field in a much bigger capacity. 

“This wasn’t at all a position we had to go do,” Shanahan said. “But when you look at there in the third round, you look at the speed asset this kid has that brings something different to the rest of our guys.

“That’s one of the reasons it was important for us to have Travis Benjamin last year. He was our main speed guy that he didn’t get a lot of balls or anything, but he did things to help coverages out, and if we could find a guy like that at the right spot, we thought it was good to add him.”

With a young quarterback with a strong arm under center adding Gray makes quite a bit of sense. Adding a reliable weapon will only raise Lance’s confidence. The SMU product was one of the team’s 30 formal interviews and targets throughout the pre-draft process. 

“The meeting went great,” Gray said. “I met with the receivers coach, head coach, GM, all of those meetings were great. It just felt like home. I, overall, had a great meeting with them, so I just knew that one day, this could be my home.”

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In his two seasons as a Mustang, Gray recorded 82 receptions for 1,251 yards (15.3 yards per catch) and 13 touchdowns. The 49ers used their second of two third-round picks to bring the speedster to Santa Clara. 

“It was a great moment,” Gray said. “To be the last pick, it was a great moment. All the receivers that were taken before me, I’m going to show them something.”

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