Is it fair to label Deebo Samuel a gadget player?
The mere mention of Samuel in this manner provokes a response from many fans. It is as if calling someone a gadget player invokes the same negative connotation as calling a quarterback a game manager.
Let’s start by defining what gadget player is. A gadget player is someone who is used in multiple ways, almost like they don’t have a position.
This definition fits Samuel perfectly. It’s safe to say that Samuel isn’t a classic wide receiver or a classic running back, he’s just a player that can do a wide range of things so well that he is among the best in the league. Samuel can run all of the routes in the 49ers offense -- that’s not a problem -- but it’s what Samuel does with the ball in his hands that makes him a special player that every opponent needs to focus on stopping when he’s on the field. This versatility shown through in 2020 when Samuel finished with more yards after the catch, 398, than he did total receiving yards, 391.
Deebo Samuel is very similar to another 49ers great, Ricky Watters. The two are similar in size, build and ability.
Watters was a bit of a gadget player himself, starting his collegiate career at Notre Dame as a wide receiver, before being moved to running back for his final season when the starter was suspended for the season due to academic reasons. Watters made the transition in positions look easy, performing at such a high level that the 49ers would select him in Round 2 of the 1991 NFL draft.
While Watters’ time in San Francisco ended up being short, he had a great deal of success with the 49ers. During his three seasons playing under offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan, culminating with three touchdowns, one rushing and two receiving, in Super Bowl XXIX. Watters’ performance tied the Super Bowl record set previously by Roger Craig and Jerry Rice.
In Deebo Samuel, it seems Mike’s son, Kyle, has found his Ricky Watters.