49ers should expect big things from Deebo Samuel in 2020

Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The 49ers’ Deebo Samuel impressed his rookie year, but his 2020 campaign should be even more noteworthy.

It might have taken a few weeks to get going. But by the time then-San Francisco 49ers rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel got going, it was too late to call him anything else than an up-and-coming star in the making.

San Francisco’s second-round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft eventually finished the year with 802 receiving yards on 57 receptions with three receiving touchdowns. And in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s “positionless” offense, Samuel also added an impressive 159 rush yards on 14 carries with an additional three touchdowns on the ground. Those jet sweeps and end-arounds, which were hinted at during the preseason a year ago, became a staple of Samuel’s game.

Heading into 2020, Samuel is now a pinnacle focal point for Shanahan’s offense. The team elected to part ways with veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who served as a mentor for Samuel for the latter half of 2019.

Now, Samuel is taking on the role of being a leader among the wide receivers.

One of those leadership tasks involved reaching out to one of the Niners’ newest players, former Arizona State wideout Brandon Aiyuk, whom the team selected at the tail end of Round 1 of this year’s NFL Draft.

“I gave him call and I was like, ‘Hey, man, I just want you to know it will take time,’” Samuel said of reaching out to Aiyuk, via Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News. “He has it harder than I do now. I was around the coaches and able to use them as much as possible.”

Even if it means dishing out some tough rookie love.

“With him, it’s just a Zoom call, and it’s hard to listen to a guy tell you what you want to do and not be able to go on the field,” Samuel continued. “I told him, ‘Hey, man, lock in, pay attention. I know it’s hard.'”

Deebo Samuel wants to double production with the 49ers

Expanding on his impressive 2019 campaign goes beyond assuming leadership capabilities and merely reaching out to rookie players.

Leadership, of course, is leading by example and showing what can be done rather than just talking about it. And while the 49ers’ practice facility outside Levi’s Stadium remains closed due to COVID-19, that hasn’t stopped Samuel from getting work in.

In this offseason video, Samuel was practicing a combination of both footwork and hand-eye coordination.

Doing this will hopefully account for two things: showcasing rookies like Aiyuk how to prepare, while also making Samuel’s goal, doubling his production from a year ago, a bit more reachable.

A big part of this will be how well Aiyuk adjusts to life at the pro level. Samuel’s numbers started to take off on a consistent basis after San Francisco acquired Sanders on Oct. 22 of last year. While much of the attention focused on the savvy veteran, Samuel was then able to make the most of his opportunities, including back-to-back 100-yard games in Weeks 10 and 11.

Aiyuk might not be the focal point right away, yet his presence and early development could serve to make Samuel an even bigger threat than he was a year ago.

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Tack on another season under Shanahan’s tutelage, and there’s little reason to assume Samuel falls short of the 1,000-yard mark in 2020.