When on the field, Deebo Samuel is one of the most exciting players to watch in the NFL.
The third-year wide receiver broke out his rookie season but failed to make much of a lasting impact in year two due to multiple injuries throughout the year.
Fast-forward to 2021, and not only is Samuel the 49ers' leading receiver, but the South Carolina product is second in the entire league with 334 yards receiving -- second to only Los Angeles Rams wideout Cooper Kupp (367).
It's shaping up to be a career season for Samuel, and 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan discussed what strides he has seen the 25-year-old make from Week 1 of his rookie season to now.
“I thought Deebo, as a rookie, he made a lot of strides halfway through the year," Shanahan told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "We threw him into the battle very early, even Week 1 versus Tampa. He had a lot to learn on the fly. But he got better throughout the year and was playing at a very high level when we got to the playoffs and the Super Bowl.
"His second year was just injury-filled. So, he didn't get an offseason. So, when he came back, he wasn't totally ready to play football and he kept getting re-injured. So, the second year was almost like it didn't even happen. And this year, I think is what you were hoping to see the second year. He came in very prepared from what he learned his rookie year. He came in ready to go, was in much better football shape, much better on his routes. His stamina's better and I think that's why he started off better.”
Samuel is known for his yards-after-catch ability, which few other pass-catchers in the league can compare to. Not only has he been lethal in the passing game, but Samuel has the physical traits to be an effective ball carrier in the run game as well.
“You can hand off the ball to a lot of receivers and they’ve got a chance on good looks, but Deebo is a real good running back too," Shanahan added. "So, even if it's not a good look, he still has a chance to gain a yard or two. He's very natural at it and the way his body's built, he can handle it pretty well. So, anytime I think guys can take pass eligibles out of the game fairly easily if they want to. That's why it's good to always have another club in your bag where you can play a different position."
If healthy, Samuel has the chance to be one of the better receivers in the league. Between him and tight end George Kittle, the 49ers have two No. 1 options in the passing game.