Florida Gators writer gives insight into 49ers’ new WR Ricky Pearsall

Benjamin Henderson from the site Hail Florida Hail gave Niner Noise a rundown of what 49ers fans can expect from first-round pick Ricky Pearsall after the wide receiver was a surprise pick at No. 31.

Fans and pundits alike were certainly raising an eyebrow when wide receiver Ricky Pearsall was the pick at No. 31 for the San Francisco 49ers in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Fans had their eyes on other players, and even if it was a receiver who was to be the pick, then prospects like Xavier Worthy, Ladd McConkey or Xavier Legette were more popularly picked.

To give us a better idea of who Pearsall is and what fans can expect, Hail Florida Hail writer Benjamin Henderson was kind enough to answer some questions on Pearsall and his fit for San Francisco.

Henderson also wrote an article asking questions from about Pearsall from the 49ers fans’ perspective, which you can read here.

Ricky Pearsall Q&A with Hail Florida Hail

Niner Noise:

The 49ers drafting Ricky Pearsall was seen as a slight reach since he had a second-round grade, but most agree his production at Florida and his strong testing in the NFL Combine projects him as a strong prospect. Do you think he should have had more attention over those late-first/early second-round receivers like Xavier Worthy, Xavier Legette and Keon Coleman from fans?

Benjamin Henderson:

Coming into the season, even most Gator fans would have been shocked if Pearsall went in the first round. He transferred in late from Arizona State in 2022, and while his 2022 season was solid, he didn’t get to fully showcase his talents because, frankly, Anthony Richardson wasn’t the greatest at hitting the intermediate routes that Pearsall was running.

But what I will point out for Pearsall is that he came just short of being the first Florida WR to hit 1,000 yards in over 20 years even though the offensive line was as bad as one could imagine, limiting any deep routes for the Gators/Pearsall and the fact that Billy Napier’s offense doesn’t really scheme guys to be open. Pearsall had to rely on his route-running ability to force himself to be open.

We are obligated to point out that when Legette and Pearsall went head to head, Legette had a good game (5 catches for 110 yards) against a Gator defense that was 85th in points allowed per game. Pearsall, however, had perhaps his best game as a Gator, going 10 catches for 166 yards and the game-winning touchdown against a Gamecock defense that was better on paper (65th).

Niner Noise:

The 49ers needs a strong upgrade in special teams, both from the punt return standpoint and with the new kickoff rules we’ll be seeing this season. Pearsall did some punt returning at Florida, but wasn’t used much in that role. Do you think he could start his NFL career as a return man while waiting for his role on offense to emerge?

Benjamin Henderson:

One thing to keep in mind with Florida’s special teams is that for the past two seasons, they have been an abomination so bad that Gator fans are now required to count to 11 every time the punt return unit trots on the field just to make sure that Florida didn’t send out only 10 players. In just two seasons since Napier arrived, I can count at least three games where special teams directly cost Florida the game.

I say that to say that if Pearsall can be embedded in a unit that doesn’t look like the Little Giants out there, he has the tool set to be an effective kick/punt returner. He can make the quick cuts required and he has enough speed on him that it wouldn’t shock me if he can emerge as a threat back there.

Niner Noise:

The one knock on Pearsall people seem to have with him is his lack of physicality. Is this an overblown concern, or do you think that can be his Achilles heel in the NFL?

Benjamin Henderson:

I think he will be fine. Keep in mind he put up 17 reps on the bench press at the NFL Combine, so it’s not like he is some weak dude that can just be bullied around. Plus, his overall athleticism can overcome some of the physical concerns when challenging for 50/50 balls.

Niner Noise:

If you could point to any one player in the NFL as a pro comparison to Pearsall (so that fans who don’t know Pearsall well can get a mental view of what he brings), who would it be and why?

Benjamin Henderson:

I’ve seen some comparisons that have been all over the map. I’ve seen him be compared to Alex Erickson, Kadarius Toney, Chris Olave, and Christian Kirk. Of those, Olave would be the closest. Both ran nearly identical 40 times (4.39 vs. 4.41) and were noted coming out of college for their ability to make acrobatic catches look easy (see Pearsall’s Superman catch). Given that Olave was in the slot 40% of the time for New Orleans last season and racked up 1,110 yards receiving, there is potential for Pearsall to follow his path.

A big thank you to Benjamin for giving us his time to answer our questions, you can follow his work covering the Florida Gators over at Hail Florida Hail.

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