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Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk finished 1st & 4th in Football Outsiders’ YAC+ stat

Samuel, as you might imagine, broke a record

Event Name: NFC Wild Card Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Football Outsiders releases their annual Almanac every July that includes everything from team previews to stats from the previous season. This year, they introduced a stat called YAC+, which is described below:

YAC+ estimates how much YAC a receiver gained compared to what we would have expected from an average receiver catching passes of similar length in similar down-and-distance situations. This is imperfect—we don’t base YAC+ on what route a player runs, and obviously a go route will have more YAC than a comeback—but it does a fairly good job of telling you if this receiver gets more or less YAC than other receivers with similar usage patterns.

As noted in the article, YAC+ is an individual stat for receivers and a team stat for quarterbacks, which is why the 49ers are the lead example. Kyle Shanahan’s team led the league in YAC+ by a comfortable margin for the fifth time in six seasons. However, last year was the first season Shanahan had an individual lead the league in YAC+.

Of the 91 qualifying receives, Deebo Samuel ranked first, with Brandon Aiyuk finishing fourth. Check out who is ranked third:

Deebo, unsurprisingly, has the competition beat by a full yard. When you think of yards after the catch, Aiyuk isn’t a name that often comes to mind. But the numbers support Aiyuk being among the best in the league once the ball is in his hands.

Ray-Ray McCloud finished second to last, right behind Emmanuel Sanders, in YAC+. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that had more to do with Big Ben and the Steelers offense.

The article points out how only three receivers have topped +3.5 since 2006, highlighting how special Samuel was in 2021. And while it’s fair to assume Deebo’s numbers are inflated given where he lined up and how he was used last year, Deebo was still +3.6 if you remove his targets behind the line of scrimmage.

George Kittle finished 12th among 55 qualifying tight ends. Neither of the running backs made the top list, but JaMycal Hasty finished in the bottom 15 at 43. I recall a few plays where Hasty was 1-on-1 in the open field and failed to make his guy miss or create positive yards out of the situation.

That’s an area where one of the backs this year must improve. There will be ample opportunities out of the backfield in the passing game. Between Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson, Ty Davis-Price, and Trey Sermon, somebody must take advantage of the space created in this offense.

Finally, the quarterbacks. Jimmy Garoppolo finished first in YAC+. As mentioned at the top, it’s more of a team stat for quarterbacks. That’s not to disparage Garoppolo. The other leaders behind him were Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Justin Herbert. That’s the company you want to keep. In each offense, they rely on quick crossing routes, slants, and getting the ball out quickly so their weapons can do the heavy lifting.