49ers pick Arizona WR Jacob Cowing No. 135 overall

49ers pick Arizona WR Jacob Cowing No. 135 overall originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SANTA CLARA — Ricky Pearsall also can return punts, but the 49ers aren't necessarily thinking along those lines with their first-round draft pick because of what he's expected to contribute at wide receiver.

The 49ers on Saturday invested the final fourth-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft in Arizona slot receiver Jacob Cowing, who has an opportunity to become the team's primary return man while also bringing a potential matchup advantage to their multi-receiver sets.

Cowing had an ultra-productive college career. He spent his first three seasons at Texas-El Paso, where he caught 69 passes for 1,354 yards and seven touchdowns in 2021. He then transferred to Arizona, where he caught 175 passes for nearly 1,900 yards and 20 touchdowns in his final two seasons of college ball.

Cowing was the only player in major college football last season to catch 90 passes and score 12 or more TDs.

Cowing (5-foot-8, 168 pounds) ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine, and the 49ers recently brought him to their facility for a Top-30 visit. He received pre-draft comparisons to Tank Dell, who caught 47 passes for 709 yards and seven TDs as a rookie for the Houston Texans last season in a similar offensive scheme.

Cowing adds to San Francisco's wide receiver competition behind starters Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel.

The 49ers selected Pearsall with the No. 31 overall pick Thursday night. He brings some experience as a punt returner -- a role he said he'd willingly accept with the 49ers -- as he returned 11 punts for 126 yards in his final season at Florida.

Jauan Jennings has served as the 49ers' No. 3 receiver over the past three seasons, and he'll be challenged to hold on to his role on the team's depth chart.

Trent Taylor, Ronnie Bell, Chris Conley, Danny Gray and Tay Martin are the other receivers currently on the 49ers’ roster.

Cowings figures to have a chance to immediately contribute on punt returns, though he returned just 18 punts for 121 yards over the past two seasons. The 49ers must replace Ray-Ray McCloud, their primary punt returner for the previous two seasons, as he signed with the Atlanta Falcons in free agency.

The 49ers tried Bell on punt returns last season, but he struggled mightily in that role. They recently signed Taylor, who has extensive NFL experience handling punts.

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