LOS ANGELES — James Jones has no doubt that if Deebo Samuel started running the ball in Week 1, the 49ers receiver would have recorded 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 receiving.
Samuel shared his belief that he could have hit the historic milestone if he was used in the first half of the season like he was in the second. During the regular season, the multi-talented receiver caught 77 of his 121 targets for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns.
Samuel also carried the ball 59 times for 365 yards and an additional eight scores on the ground. All but 22 of those yards occurred in the final eight games of the season.
Jones, a former NFL wide receiver who’s now an NFL Network analyst, told NBC Sports Bay Area earlier this month on Super Bowl Radio Row that there’s no argument against the third-year pro’s statement.
“From what we’ve seen him do, I don’t think any of us would argue that,” Jones said. “I think we’d say Deebo, you’re absolutely right. You’re talking about a guy who is really one-of-one.
“There’s no other player like him in our league. I cannot see somebody putting a receiver at running back right now and doing what Deebo has done.”
Jones, who was a physical receiver during his nine-year career with the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders admitted that he would not be willing to carry take on a ball carrier role like Samuel has.
“I would be in the ice tub for two days, three days after taking hits like Deebo takes,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t be able to do it and I pride myself at being a physical guy but he’s different. He is running through these linebacker tackles.”
There are a handful of running backs in the league that also double as receivers but there are even fewer who are pass catchers that turn into running backs. Atlanta Falcons Cordarelle Patterson is a similar hybrid-style player but Jones believes Samuel is in his own category.
“It’s not like Kyle is just giving him tosses,” Jones said, “He is running him downhill through the A and B gaps and then he goes out here and runs curl routes, go balls and screenplays. He’s really one of one in our league, a special player.
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“He’s one of those guys - just a joy watching. [There’s] not a lot of players where you can just say, ‘I don’t really care, win or lose, but I’m buying a ticket to go see this dude right here go.’ And that’s Deebo Samuel, he’s special.”
Samuel is eligible for a contract extension this off-season and as the 49ers have done in the past with Fred Warner and George Kittle, will likely secure the All-Pro receiver prior to training camp.