No. 3: 49ers are now without Emmanuel Sanders
There are probably a few reasons why Deebo Samuel took a little bit to find his footing over the course of 2019, his rookie development being one of them.
But it’s no sheer coincidence Samuel’s numbers started to take off after the Niners made the move to grab veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders from the Denver Broncos just ahead of the 2019 NFL trade deadline. In the five games before San Francisco acquired Sanders, Samuel averaged three receptions and 33.6 yards per contest.
After the trade, Samuel averaged 4.2 catches and 63.4 yards in each respective category split.
Granted, Sanders had only two regular-season contests with the Niners in which he had more than 100 receiving yards. But his presence on the field drew attention from other teams’ top defensive backs, thereby opening up more chances for players like Samuel to benefit.
The 49ers elected not to re-sign Sanders during the offseason, letting him walk in free agency en route to a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints.
Now, it’s Samuel’s time to assume that crucial No. 1 wide receiver role in San Francisco’s offense.
If he’s up to the task, great. But there’s the possibility he’s not quite ready to be that alpha player.