5 players 49ers can’t afford to lose to injury in 2020

Cornerback Richard Sherman #25 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Cornerback Richard Sherman #25 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Deebo Samuel, 49ers
Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

No. 3: 49ers Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel

The Niners needed to make a blockbuster trade to revamp their underperforming wide receiver room in 2019, acquiring veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders from the Denver Broncos.

That seemed to do the trick. And while Sanders only posted two games with San Francisco in which he had over 100 receiving yards, the rest of the 49ers pass catchers certainly benefited from his presence on the field.

One of those was then-rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel who, despite a sluggish start, eventually finished with 802 receiving yards — a team-best number at the position.

With Sanders now gone, it’s up to Samuel to assume the No. 1 alpha role at the position. He’ll have support, yes, including fourth-year veteran Kendrick Bourne and the rookie, Brandon Aiyuk. But Samuel is now going to be the go-to guy for Jimmy Garoppolo.

What creates some concern is Samuel had a bit of an injury history during his collegiate days at South Carolina, which potentially dropped his NFL Draft stock into Round 2 a year ago. While Aiyuk could thrive in year one, much like Samuel did last year, the onus will be on Samuel to continue his progression as San Francisco’s top pass-catching threat at the position.

If Samuel goes down for an extended period of time, the 49ers offense could revert back to the kind of struggles it experienced over the first half of 2019.