Deebo Samuel has turned the page on the 49ers' wide receiver draft woes
It's safe to say the San Francisco 49ers have been snake-bitten when it comes to drafting wide receivers.
Since 2002, the Niners have selected at least one wide out in each draft, for a total of 22 in all. Of those 22, only two players have gained more than 2,000 receiving yards with the team. They are: Michael Crabtree (4,327) and Arnaz Battle (2,150). Crabtree is also the only one to ever have a 1,000 yard season, with 1,105 in 2012.
While the Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch era has brought more hope to the position, their selections have also struggled to make an impact either due to performance or injuries. In fact, Trent Taylor, Dante Pettis, and Richie James have tallied a grand total of 1,516 receiving yards in six combined seasons. Taylor also missed all of 2019 with an injury, joining 2019 draft pick Jalen Hurd in that regard.
Despite the struggles, the 49ers do have a light at the end of the tunnel in a player who has seemed to buck the trend: Deebo Samuel.
Samuel's 2019 debut campaign was the the most prolific year the Niners have had from a first-year wide out since Jerry Rice in 1985. His 820 receiving yards were the second most for a San Francisco rookie ever, trailing only Rice's 927.
While he fell behind the legend through the air, Deebo made up for it on the ground, gaining 159 rushing yards to Rice's 26. Samuel's total was the highest of any receiver in franchise history, becoming only the second player at his position group to break 100 yards on the ground in red and gold. Rice also did it in 1988 with 107.
As if his regular season wasn't impressive enough, Samuel also proved to be clutch, coming up big during the Niner's Super Bowl run. Overall, in three postseason games, he caught 10 passes for 127 yards and added another 102 yards on the ground on just six attempts (17.0 yards per carry).
While he was mostly solid, if Samuel needs to improve in any area, it's catching the football consistently. While Deebo did catch 57-of-81 regular season targets (70.4%), he was one of only five players to drop nine passes or more, and his drop percentage of 11.1% was fourth worst in the NFL. It's something he'll need to improve on moving forward.
Still, Deebo's clearly the top option of this unit and is poised to take on an even bigger role in the offense in 2020. The 49ers will be without Emmanuel Sanders who joined the New Orleans Saints via free agency, and while they're likely to take a receiver early in the draft, it remains to be seen how quickly that player can contribute at a high level. It'll be up to Samuel to join tight end George Kittle to lead the San Francisco's air attack to another run at a championship.
Media courtesy AP Images
Follow Al Sacco on Twitter