The wide receiver position is one of the most heavily discussed positions in the NFL. Yet Deebo Samuel is somehow consistently left out of the conversation when talking about the league's best wideouts.
Samuel, the San Francisco 49ers' second-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft, is entering his third season in the league. He had a remarkable rookie season in 2019, helping the 49ers reach the Super Bowl. In Samuel's second season, he struggled to stay healthy and missed plenty of games.
So far in training camp, Samuel is looking poised to have a big season. He's making plays all over the practice field and most importantly, he seems to be getting back healthy.
Samuel still has ways to go before being considered a top-ten wide receiver, but he's currently one of the most intriguing young players in the league. The hype surrounding Samuel, however, is nowhere to be seen.
Here are three reasons why Samuel is the most underrated receiver in the NFL.
Why Deebo Samuel is the most underrated receiver in the NFL
#1 - Versatility
Samuel is the definition of a do-it-all wide receiver. There are very few wideouts that can play as many roles as Samuel can.
He has experience lining up in the backfield as a running back, in the slot, out wide and he even took some snaps in line as a tight end. He also moves around in motion, even going from one position to another pre-snap. That's taking the term versatility to a whole other level.
What's even more impressive is that Samuel is productive in all of the roles he's asked to play. He can take handoffs for significant gains, and he can get open and haul in a pass from both the slot and wide alignment. Plus, Samuel is also a solid run blocker.
There's nothing more valuable than having a player that can do just about anything out on the field.
#2 - Run after the catch ability
Aside from Samuel's versatility, his second greatest strength is undoubtedly his run-after-the-catch ability.
As soon as Samuel has the football in his hands, he's tough to tackle. Most wideouts don't possess the kind of elusiveness Samuel has.
In 2019, Samuel averaged 8.3 yards after catch. Samuel isn't just juking defenders out, either. He is very much capable of running through defensive backs. He broke nine tackles in his rookie season.
Samuel only played in seven games in his second season as he struggled with injuries. But in the games he did play, he averaged a whopping 12.1 yards after catch. He also broke six tackles. Those are some awe-inspiring numbers.
#3 - Deebo Samuel makes the most of limited opportunities
Unlike the best wide receivers in the NFL, Samuel has yet to play in an offense that gives him a ton of targets.
In 2019, the 49ers had the second-most rushing attempts in the NFL. Samuel was only targeted 81 times. He made the most of those targets, finishing the year with 57 catches for over 800 yards.
In the seven games Samuel played in 2020, he was targeted 44 times. He caught 33 of those for 391 yards.
The way the 49ers offense is structured, Samuel naturally has limited opportunities. Because he doesn't put up the same eye-popping numbers as other wideouts, it feels as if he's often forgotten. But if you put Samuel in an offense with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, you'd see him put up excellent numbers.
It's possible that with the addition of Trey Lance, the 49ers will change their offensive philosophy. Still, until that happens, Samuel will continue to be overlooked simply due to a lack of opportunities.