When Deebo Samuel was asked to describe himself in a 2022 Pro Bowl interview, Samuel responded “we got a new position, it’s called wide back. Wide receiver playing running back.” Samuel’s role in the San Francisco offense has become so unique that the role he plays has created a whole new position. I mean, how many players do you know have had five back-to-back games with 7+ rushes while also totaling 1,405 yards off of 77 receptions? A player of this caliber has to have a unique set of skills and athleticism to put up these types of numbers. Today, we will examine some of the traits and qualities that make Deebo Samuel one of the most intriguing players in the NFL.
Tyshun “Deebo” Samuel was born on January 15, 1996, in Inman, South Carolina. Samuel played in Chapman High School where he was ranked a three-star recruit and received nine D1 offers, according to 247Sports. He committed to the South Carolina Gamecocks, where he totaled 2076 yards and 16 touchdowns off 148 receptions in 30 games, as well as 154 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground. With a strong showing at South Carolina, Samuel was drafted 33rd by the San Francisco 49ers in 2019.
Samuel showed promise in his first two years, including a rookie campaign that had him put up 802 yards and 3 touchdowns off 57 receptions, but was held back by injury in a lot of 2020, playing only seven games. However, 2021 would show a side of Deebo Samuel never seen before, thanks to Samuel himself taking a big jump, as well as some genius play calling by Kyle Shanahan.
On September 12, 2021, the 49ers were set to play the Detroit Lions, and Deebo Samuel had a game to remember. Samuel put up 9 receptions and 189 yards, including a 79-yard bomb in the 3rd quarter where he sent Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah flying. This success was just the beginning, though. This success was just the beginning, though. Samuel’s incredible season which consisted of 1770 scrimmage yards and 14 touchdowns led to his first Pro Bowl appearance and first-team All-Pro. However, the way he got these yards was not like any other “wide receiver.”
Samuel ran for 365 yards and 8 touchdowns on 59 carries, and while 59 carries do not sound like a lot, Samuel’s usage really started to go up in the second half of the season. In the first 8 games, Samuel only had 6 carries for 22 yards and one touchdown, but averaged about 5.9 carries per game after that and grew into the “wide back” role that he is known for today. Samuel has multiple elements in his game that not only allow him to do this but makes him the most successful out of anyone to attempt to play this role.
Samuel’s Unique Agility
Not many guys move around the way Deebo Samuel is able to. Samuel has a great combination of having the ability to make someone miss via using his speed and agility, as well as having the strength and toughness to fight through contact, which allows him to play in the backfield so well. Samuel moves like a running back, picking and choosing the gaps he wants to hit well, as demonstrated by the run above. According to Pro Football Focus, Samuel forced 7 missed tackles on receptions and 8 missed tackles on runs in this year’s playoffs alone, leading all receivers and being second to all running backs. Samuel was built to play this role.
Samuel’s 1405-Yard Receiver Skills
Due to the fact that Deebo Samuel attracts a lot of attention with his running ability and his ability to take a screen pass to the house, many teams forget that Deebo Samuel is a great receiver, as well. Samuel is an underrated route runner that can get you looking the wrong way if you aren’t paying close attention to him, as well as someone with reliable hands. While Samuel is not a 50-50 jump ball wide receiver, Samuel can pull in some tough passes as well, making defenses have to keep multiple sets of eyes on him, whether he’s in the backfield or out wide.
Kyle Shanahan’s Perfect Scheme
While Deebo Samuel is an incredible player alone, Kyle Shanahan has designed some incredible plays for his star receiver/running back. Shanahan seems to find new ways to get Samuel the ball every week, such as the lateral play shown below. Shanahan has had a great reputation in regards to his running scheme beforehand as well, making Samuel and Shanahan a match made in heaven. With Shanahan making guys such as Raheem Mostert and Elijah Mitchell 5.7 and 4.7 yards-per-carry rushers in his scheme, Samuel was bound to have success in the backfield as well. It seems like every week, Shanahan finds a new way to get Samuel the ball successfully, like this video here
Jacks Of All Trades, Masters Of None
While Deebo Samuel may not be the first NFL player to play multiple positions on the offensive end, he may have been the most successful so far. There have been others entering the league attempting to play the same role that Deebo Samuel has, such as Denard Robinson, Tavon Austin, Cordarrelle Patterson, Percy Harvin, and others. Out of all of these guys, the only successful guys were maybe Patterson and Harvin, and even then, not to the level of Samuel so far.
The main issue with many of these guys is that they are not particularly great at both receiving and running, as they are usually pure athletes raw in their ability to catch and run the ball. For example, Tavon Austin ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash, leading him to be picked eighth overall, but lacked the ball carrier vision and had consistent drop problems, limiting his success. Samuel, on the other hand, is much more refined as a wide receiver and a runner, allowing him to successfully play his style.
Altogether, Deebo “Do-It-All” Samuel, as Nickelodeon star Young Dylan called him, is an incredible player with a playstyle quite like no other player in the NFL. While usually, the saying goes “jack of all trades, master of none,” for Deebo Samuel, it might need to be “master of all trades, jack of none.”