NFL Draft

Florida coach believes Pearsall's work ethic fueled by 2023 slight

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When wide receiver Ricky Pearsall considered entering the 2023 NFL Draft, he learned he was projected as a prospect who could expect to hear his name called at some point after the third round.

“Play strength was one of the things that was mentioned by a few of the general managers and scouts that we had conversations with,” Florida head coach Billy Napier said on a call with Bay Area media.

“And I think he took that personally. He needed to show physicality and play strength. Ultimately, he built his offseason program that way, and he went to work on that.”

Pearsall returned for his fifth season of college football, and he was noticeably stronger. He ended up being an easy choice for the the 49ers with the No. 31 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, according to general manager John Lynch.

"We know we do well when we have consensus in our group. And that's from scouting, coaching, (research and development), and we really had that with Ricky,” Lynch said. “He's a guy who, throughout the process we liked early, and it kept getting stronger. He does a lot of things well. He does a lot of the things we covet at that position well.”

Pearsall has the ability to play every receiver position, including the slot, and return punts. Inspired by the feedback from NFL teams, he worked to increase his strength.

At the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Pearsall bench-pressed 225 pounds 17 times. In comparison, LSU receiver Brian Thomas Jr. registered 11 reps, while Georgia’s Ladd McConkey had 13. Thomas was selected at No. 23 by the Jacksonville Jaguars, while McConkey went No. 34 to the Los Angeles Chargers.

“His desire to do that bench press, to test well, that was a little of, ‘OK, I’m going to answer the critics here,’ ” Napier said of Pearsall. “And I think he ultimately checked that box.”

Among wide receivers, Pearsall (6-foot, 189 pounds) had the fastest three-cone drill (6.64 seconds), third-best vertical leap (42 inches) and sixth-best broad jump (10-9) at the combine, along with the 10th-best 40-yard dash at 4.41 seconds.

“This guy’s skill level is way up there,” Napier said. “Receiver is a skill position, so the release game, the top of the route, the ability to separate within the route on the stems, and then the hand selection, the ball skills. He is a guy who is a product of the work.

“The football coach sees that immediately, and that’s why all these NFL guys fell in love with the guy. Those skills he has are the product of a lot of work, and Ricky has been relentless.”

Pearsall wrapped up his college career, which began at Arizona State alongside Brandon Aiyuk, with 65 receptions for 965 yards and four touchdowns.

Now, he joins a group of 49ers receivers that already includes Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and Jauan Jennings. Currently, Aiyuk and Jennings are signed only through the upcoming season.

Pearsall caught 100 passes a day every day — offseason and during the season — from the JUGS machine, Napier said. He noted it is Pearsall’s work ethic and attention to detail that separates him from a lot of other players.

“He’s got the keys to the facility,” Napier said. “He’s going to be in the quarterback’s hip pocket. He’s got great energy about him. He’s a guy you want to be around. When you pair all of that together, you got a guy who brings great value to the organization.

“He’s working coaches' hours. He’s that type of guy.”

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