No. 1: Ever-present sophomore slump for Deebo Samuel, 49ers
The Niners aren’t immune to some of their more-recent second-year players going through the proverbial “sophomore slump.”
In 2018, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon looked nothing like the promising rookie he was a year earlier. Fellow wide receiver Dante Pettis looked like a quality starter late in 2018, only to see his stock fall in Kyle Shanahan’s eyes all the way to being inactive in Super Bowl LIV.
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From the outlook, it doesn’t appear Deebo Samuel would suffer the same fate. At least not in terms of his tough, physical nature and the role that’ll mean on offense.
But if there is an area in which Samuel could struggle, ultimately leading to a serious regression, it could be in his catches. In 2019, Samuel caught 70.4 percent of the 81 pass attempts thrown his way.
That’s right around league average, which isn’t terrible. Yet it’s important to note Samuel also had 10 drops credited to him, according to Pro Football Focus, which was by far the most on the team and was tied for second among all qualifying wide receivers last year.
A common thought is rookie players struggle with the focus drops, which is entirely rational. But Pettis bucked that trend last year in training camp, prompting Shanahan to drop him down the depth chart in quick fashion.
While we shouldn’t necessarily expect the same from Samuel, it has to be considered as a possibility.
Let’s only hope none of it comes to fruition.