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PFF graph highlights Deebo Samuel’s importance to 49ers’ offense

San Francisco needs Samuel to stay healthy next season if it wants to get back into Super Bowl contention.

Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers through some terrible injury luck last season. The team had the second most man-games lost to injury out of any NFL squad over the past 20 seasons. The Niners’ total adjusted games came out to 166.6, per Football Outsiders. Only the 2016 Chicago Bears had a higher total than San Francisco, with 171.6. The Bears went 3-13 that season.

One of the players San Francisco sorely missed last season was receiver Deebo Samuel. The 25-year-old suffered a Jones fracture last offseason that kept him out of the first three games. Samuel only played in seven games in 2020, finishing with 33 receptions for 391 yards and a touchdown. He also had eight carries for 26 yards.

Samuel’s presence was especially felt in the two wins over the Los Angeles Rams. He was excellent in the road victory, where he racked up 11 receptions for 133 yards.

Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus put together a graph that shows how good Samuel is with the ball in his hands and at making opposing defenders miss tackles.

Samuel is averaging 12.3 yards per touch over the past two seasons. Even though he only appeared in five games, Samuel led the lead with 12.1 YAC per reception. In his rookie campaign, Deebo finished 13th in the NFL with 473 yards after the catch.

The plan was to pair him with fellow YAC monster Brandon Aiyuk, but the duo only appeared in six games together in 2020 due to injuries and COVID-19 protocols. Even though their top two receivers missed a bunch of games, the 49ers finished third in the NFL in yards after the catch, behind only the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan uses Samuel in a variety of ways. His ability to gain tough yards and run through defenders is second-to-none. If Samuel, Aiyuk and tight end George Kittle can stay healthy next season, the trio will be a matchup nightmare for opponents.

Samuel has played in 22 games over this two-year career. He has 90 receptions for 1,193 yards and four touchdowns. He also 22 rushing attempts for 185 yards and three scores.

The Niners have a ton of weapons on offense. With Samuel, Aiyuk and Kittle likely getting a bulk of the targets, whichever quarterback is under center will be in good shape.

What are your expectations for Deebo next season?