Deebo Samuel burst out onto the scene in the 2021 season. He stayed healthy, and we finally got to see his versatility on full display. Samuel played in 16 of 17 games and has created a problem for fantasy football outlets because people don’t know whether to treat him as a running back or a receiver. He split time in the San Francisco 49ers’ offense nearly equally between both positions.
Samuel is entering the final year of his rookie deal. With the massive wide receiver contracts handed out this offseason, he wants to be paid like a top wide receiver. Samuel has one more year to prove he can stay healthy and to replicate his 2021 performance to show it wasn’t just a fluke to earn that payday.
2021 season statistics & fantasy finish
Rushing: 59 attempts for 365 yards and eight touchdowns.
Receiving: 77 receptions on 121 targets for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns.
Fantasy: 300.5 total fantasy points in half-PPR scoring and finished as the overall WR2. His 18.8 fantasy points per game also ranked second-highest behind only Cooper Kupp.
San Francisco 49ers offseason moves
The 49ers came out of the draft with a little bit of everything. The first selected USC OLB Drake Jackson in the second round and then followed that up with LSU RB Tyrion Davis-Price and SMU WR Danny Gray in the third and fourth rounds.
The backfield will look different with Davis-Price, but also because Raheem Mostert is gone to the Miami Dolphins. The running back room is still cramped with the rookie Davis-Price, Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon and Jeff Wilson Jr. The other moves that San Francisco made, mainly relate to their secondary on defense or picking up Nick Bosa’s fifth-year option.
2022 best case scenario
The best case scenario for Samuel is that he can stay healthy and perform similarly to 2021. San Francisco has a question mark at quarterback right now as everyone expects it to be Trey Lance, but at the time of this writing, Jimmy Garoppolo is still on the roster. The more mobile Lance could help Samuel if he is willing to continue to line up in the backfield or be used in a variety of ways. His best-case scenario has him finishing as a top-3 wide receiver in fantasy football with the potential for taking the top spot.
2022 worst case scenario
The worst case scenario for Samuel is obviously that the injury bug rears its nasty head. If he can stay healthy, the worst case scenario for Samuel is that teams have had an entire offseason to study film, and they can pick up on ways to key in on him on defense. If they eliminate Samuel as a threat and commit to dealing with tight end George Kittle, Samuel could be locked down more than he is used to. He also made it clear that he doesn’t enjoy lining up in the backfield and thus may take needless hits if they continue to use him in that way.
I think we see Samuel come back to Earth this season. I don’t think he plummets, but I expect him to take a slight step back. If he isn’t used as much in the run game other than the occasional end around, his eight rushing touchdowns are sure to regress. His 1,400 receiving yards seem to be what he would max out at, so I think Samuel still finishes as a WR1, but somewhere in the overall WR6 or WR7 range. Still respectable, but not as high as last season.