ESPN has taken advantage of NFL’s player-tracking data to create several new statistics in recent years. In their latest project, the ESPN stats team has created Receiver Tracking Metrics (RTMs), which use player-tracking data to give receivers a grade from 0-99 (50 is around league average and 99 is the best possible score) in four categories: Overall, Open, Catch, and YAC as ESPN’s Seth Walder broke down some early standouts in the metric and unsurprisingly showed how Deebo Samuel is unparalleled in his ability to do damage with the ball in his hands.
Samuel received a maximum 99 in the YAC score for his 2021 season. Moreover, per Walder, only A.J. Brown (who scored a 97 in 2019) “has come close since 2017.” In fact, Samuel was so ahead of the pack in 2021 that even after getting off to a slow start this season (he only has a 52 YAC Score this season), he remains legions above the rest of the league since the beginning of last year.
Here are the rankings of pass-catchers in YAC score since the start of last season:
1. Deebo Samuel, 94
2. Ja’Marr Chase, 82
3. Dallas Goedert, 69
4. DeVonta Smith, 66
5. Ceedee Lamb, 65
6. Brandon Aiyuk, 64
t-7. Cooper Kupp, 62
t-7. George Kittle, 62
t-7. Chris Godwin, 62
t-7. Laviska Shenault Jr., 62
Not only is Samuel the only player in the 90s, but he is also the only player above an 82. Jamar Chase is the lone other player in the NFL who has eclipsed a 70. When it comes to yards after the catch, Samuel is the student who ruins the curve for everyone on the exam.
It’s worth noting that Samuel is not the only 49ers pass-catcher in the top ten. While he is far and away the best in the league, Niners wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk and tight end George Kittle have also recorded one of the seven-best scores in the league. It’s worth pondering if all 49ers receivers have benefitted from Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which tends to put players in good positions to get more yards after the catch.
With that said, ESPN’s analysts attempt to take into account context with player-tracking data. Aiyuk, Kittle, and obviously Samuel have shown off excellent open-field ability throughout their careers. This metric only reiterates the strength of the 49ers' top trio of pass catchers.