5 players the 49ers need to break out in 2021

San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (99) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (99) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /
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Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

In order for the 49ers to get back in the playoffs this season, they’ll need these five contributors to step up in a big way in 2021.

It’s not hard to predict the San Francisco 49ers getting back into the playoffs this season after an overwhelming swarm of injuries ultimately derailed their chances of doing so in 2020.

And while the Niners underwent a crucial offseason, one which included an eventual transition from quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo to Trey Lance, perhaps the most important element will be having the team’s best players in position to provide the best plays.

Just as was the case in 2019, San Francisco should also expect some of its middle-of-the-road performers to step up and have career-defining years, too.

Some are on that kind of trajectory already. Others, perhaps impacted by last year’s odd context, may either need a bounce-back campaign or will look to have their own kind of breakout-type season, thereby helping propel the 49ers back into the playoff discussion.

Here are three who fall into this kind of category heading into 2021.

No. 5: 49ers Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel

After an exceptional rookie year in 2019, wide receiver Deebo Samuel‘s sophomore NFL season got off on the wrong foot, literally, when he suffered a broken foot during offseason workouts. Cutting into the regular season, Samuel’s eventual numbers were limited from 961 all-purpose yards his first year to just 417 total yards in 2020, thanks to him appearing in just seven games and being hindered by both the foot and hamstring injuries at various points.

The thinking was, at least entering last season, Samuel would pair with then-rookie wideout Brandon Aiyuk as one of the more prolific young receiving duos in the NFL, but that never came to fruition.

Entering year three, Samuel will hopefully benefit from playing alongside Aiyuk in a full-time, non-injured role, looking to capitalize on the hope and hype he received after such an impressive rookie campaign.

With Garoppolo — Lance, too, for that matter — under the microscope, Samuel will need to positively impact a Niners passing offense that ranked 12th last season but should be catapulted into the top-10 discussion this year.