49ers’ Deebo Samuel is one of the most electrifying players in the NFL. Someone that can take any play at any moment and take it to the end zone. We saw it time and time again last season. When the 49ers needed a play, they called on No. 19.
This season, it’s been a little different. Deebo Samuel’s had his share of explosive plays — including the big run in Week 2 versus the Seahawks and the touchdown reception where he exploded past Jalen Ramsey later in the season.
But through nine games of the season, Samuel hasn’t had the same statistical impact that he did last season. This is almost unfair to expect from Samuel, given what he did at two different positions last season, but his numbers are down across the board.
Samuel’s on pace for fewer catches, yards, and touchdowns than last season on roughly the same amount of targets. He also scored 14 touchdowns last season. He has three so far in 2022.
Furthermore, the 49ers’ All-Pro Wide Back is averaging fewer air yards per target than last season, down to 5.1 from 8.7. Likewise, he’s averaging fewer yards per catch, down to 12.1 from 18.2.
His Touch-to-Touchdown rate is also down this season to 4.8 percent from 10.2 percent. Even his yards after the catch per reception is down by a yard in 2022.
ESPN is also looking at receivers and grading them analytically in different areas. For example, they’re looking at receivers' ability to get open, catch passes and create yards after the catch.
Deebo Samuel’s graded out at 51 for his “OPEN” score, 26 for his “CATCH” score, and 80 for his “YAC” score. Keep in mind it’s on a scale from 0-99, and 50 is considered average. So Samuel’s grading out as an average receiver, and that’s not how the 49ers paid him this offseason.
Ultimately, the 49ers have found a way around it so far. Brandon Aiyuk’s having his best season as a professional, and Christian McCaffrey will certainly take a share of the responsibility away from Deebo Samuel, but it’s starting to become worrisome.
In the offseason, the 49ers committed to Samuel with a huge contract, among the likes of D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown, but the Wide Back hasn’t lived up to that billing just yet.
It’s only halfway through the season, and I’m not writing off Deebo Samuel from bouncing back with a strong finish to the year, but it can’t be denied that he’s regressed so far from his historic pace last season.