The San Francisco 49ers appear to be set at the wide receiver position heading into the 2021 NFL season. With Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk at the top of the depth chart, it will be interesting to see the plays head coach Kyle Shanahan dials up with a pair of YAC monsters on the field.
Samuel dealt with injury issues for much of the 2020 season. He only appeared in five games and finished with 33 receptions for 391 yards and a touchdown. Samuel had a very productive rookie season in 2019. He racked up 57 catches for 802 yards and three scores while adding 159 yards and three touchdowns as a runner.
Pro Football Focus released its list of receivers set to have a bigger role during the 2021 season and has Samuel as one of the nine pass-catchers.
Injuries have robbed fans of seeing what a fully-fledged Samuel is really capable of within the 49ers offense, but the addition of Brandon Aiyuk last offseason will only help, as will George Kittle‘s return to fitness.
Samuel was only targeted 44 times last year, but he turned those looks into a PFF receiving grade of 81.1, the best among 49ers wide receivers. He was the only one of those receivers to average more than 2.00 yards per route run, and he was a full half-yard per route clear of the next-closest player.
Of course, Samuel also takes designed carries and poses a serious rushing threat on top of the work he can do as a receiver. In total, he broke 11 tackles on 41 touches across the healthy snaps he was able to play, but that represented just 305 snaps of offense. There is no reason why a healthy Samuel won’t come out of this season with at least twice that volume of playing time, and that means fireworks both for him and the 49ers offense.
Samuel is averaging 12.3 yards per touch over the past two seasons. Even though he only appeared in five games in 2020, Samuel led the league with 12.1 YAC per reception. In his rookie campaign, Deebo finished 13th in the NFL with 473 yards after the catch.
PFF’s Austin Gayle highlighted just how good Samuel has been with the ball in his hands.
deebo samuel is just different with the ball in his hands pic.twitter.com/BGiGcwMMg9— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) April 11, 2021
If Samuel, Aiyuk and George Kittle can remain healthy next season, the 49ers have one of the best group of pass-catchers in the NFL. It will be fun seeing watching the Niners’ offense with its full group of weapons.
Samuel has been training with rookie QB Trey Lance this offseason. Fellow-receiver Brandon Aiyuk also looks ready for the 2021 campaign.
These catches by Brandon Aiyuk are ridiculous— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) July 8, 2021
[via IG/joshwa.porter] pic.twitter.com/3Nic4wpMnc
What are your expectations for Deebo next season? Who do you think will finish with more receiving yards out of Samuel and Aiyuk?