Deebo Samuel Flying High In Year 3 For The San Francisco 49ers

2019 NFL Draft pick Deebo Samuel. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
2019 NFL Draft pick Deebo Samuel. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

San Francisco 49ers WR Deebo Samuel is moving towards elite status in his breakout third season.

In the wackiness that was the 2019 wide receiver class, which saw Marquise Brown and N’Keal Harry go in the first round and many names go before D.K. Metcalf and Terry McLaurin, the San Francisco 49ers selected South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel early in the second round. Despite injuries throughout his career with the Gamecocks, Samuel flashed incredible traits and some unique ones for a player at 6’0″ and 215 pounds. His running back build, play speed, toughness, and versatility made for an intriguing player, and John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan made it happen.

A strong first season for Samuel, culminating in a Super Bowl trip, saw him catch 57 passes for 802 yards and three touchdowns, and he also had 14 carries for 159 yards and three scores in the run game.

The promise was clearly there after one season, but injuries nagged him a ton in year two, and production dipped severely. He never got going after a Jones fracture procedure, and had hamstring injuries like he did in college. Many wondered if Samuel’s career would end up like it did at South Carolina, one that was promising but with availability lacking.

Instead of letting the injuries define him, Samuel stormed back for year three, and has been playing like one of the best receivers in the league. He’s inching ever so close to the 1000-yard mark in just 10 games, and will set career highs across the board. Samuel has been a phenomenal route runner this season, and makes so much happen after the catch with his speed and contact balance in a Shanahan offense that creates so many opportunities for receivers.

Over the past couple of weeks, Samuel has been a major part of the running game, getting the football in the backfield when lined up at running back and on his usual jet sweeps from pre-snap motion. He’s been tough to bring down in space and has found the end zone twice on the ground in as many weeks.

But perhaps the most impressive part of his breakout in year three has been the depth of target and the yards per reception. Samuel is averaging over 11 yards per target and has over 18 yards per reception in 2021, and he’s been targeted at all three levels and is producing everywhere. Despite his size, Samuel is a nightmare at the catch point, winning in jump ball scenarios with pure will and toughness. His play speed makes him difficult to stay with on intermediate routes where he stays efficient through his breaks and maintains that speed. It seems that Deebo Samuel is now a complete three-level threat with a running back build.

It shouldn’t come as a complete shock with the tools and traits Samuel has, but the way he wins is unique for someone of his stature. He’s dynamic as a running back, a YAC threat, a separator, and a jump ball threat. He’s excelling like the greats have often done in this age.

As the San Francisco 49ers continue to claw back into contention, Deebo Samuel is the one driving this offense forward in multiple ways. He’s a true WR1 in this league and is making the 49ers look extremely smart for drafting him. As you sit back and watch the 49ers down the stretch, marvel at the way Samuel is playing in year three. It’s a special season as he moves to join the elite at his position.