The 49ers made significant strides on offense despite lacking an elite boundary receiver. Veteran Pierre Garçon is a savvy player that continues to win with excellent route running technique and toughness. Marquise Goodwin is a downfield threat that recorded his best statistical season in 2017. Still, a need for a potential number one to play on the outside of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense is clear.

Alabama’s Calvin Ridley and SMU’s Courtland Sutton are considered to be the best receivers in the upcoming NFL draft. However, neither is worth a top-ten pick for San Francisco given what Shanahan can do without elite talent. The late-season improvements on offense suggest the team might use another first-round pick on defense or fortifying the offensive line. 

A mid-round pick is the perfect time for Shanahan to grab a developmental receiving threat to round out the 49ers’ group. And there’s a player that is rapidly rising as draft season continues. Northern Iowa’s Daurice Fountain has distinguished himself at Shrine Game practices this week and should have scouts hurrying to watch more ahead of April’s draft.

Fountain has unreal athleticism that begins with a rare blend of size and explosiveness. At nearly 6-foot-2, the 22-year old native of Madison, Wisc. has body control that is prototypical of a number one receiver.

(Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports)

When speaking to scouts after practices, Fountain noted that his vertical and broad jumps were 40 inches and 11-foot-1-inch, respectively, and that’s before pre-combine specific training. Consider that he measured in with firehose 34.5-inch arms and it’s clear to see why teams will be wanting to get a closer look. The elite physical traits aren’t in one category – they’re across the board. And Fountain has used that physicality, paired with solid hands and toughness at the catch point, to stand out this week.

The 49ers receiving corps exceeded expectations in 2017, but the need for a true red zone receiver is clear. Garçon will turn 32 in early August and, while he serves a leadership role for the entire team, he’s entering the final stages of his career. A player like Fountain would be ideal to have learn alongside the vet. Garçon can offer the technicality and nuance of the position to a player like Fountain who walks in the room with bonafide NFL athleticism.

Fountain will become a hot name in just a matter of time—and for good reason. The rough edges to his game are all coachable aspects that good coaching can improve. What can’t be trained are his elite physical traits.

Day 3 selections in the draft are often used on players with physical upside and for depth roles. Evaluators isolate supremely talented athletes and hope to teach the core skills needed to be successful in the NFL. In the case of Fountain, he may not be that far away.

The 49ers acquired a fourth- and fifth-round picks last season by trading away Vance McDonald and Rashard Robinson. Acquiring draft capital, rather than releasing those players, gave the 49ers Day 3 selections to grab a potential contributor. Slot receiver Trent Taylor and tight end George Kittle were fifth-round selections last year and carved out significant roles in Shanahan’s offense as rookies. The depth of this draft class will have similar impact players falling.

Early Day 3 picks would be a perfect spot to target a player like Fountain. Elite defensive prospects can be the target early before grabbing a player with all of the qualities of a number one receiver who just needs time and coaching to polish his game.

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