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Do the 49ers Have the Best Wide Receiver Duo in the NFL?

Compare Samuel and Aiyuk's production from last season to other wide receiver tandems.
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Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk have the potential to become the best wide receiver duo in the NFL, but they haven't proven it yet.

Samuel might be the best offensive weapon in the NFL, and Aiyuk is talented enough to take over as a No. 1 receiver at some point in his career, maybe even this upcoming season.

But last season, their combined receiving production was modest compared to other top receiving duos throughout the league. In 2021, Samuel and Aiyuk together caught 133 passes, gained 2,231 receiving yards and caught 11 touchdown passes. Good numbers that probably certainly would have been better had their quarterback been an upgrade over Jimmy Garoppolo, who's so limited, he forces the 49ers to run the ball more than almost any other offense, plus he almost never completes passes downfield.

Still compare Samuel and Aiyuk's production from last season to other wide receiver tandems:

Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson: 195 catches/2,749 receiving yards/22 touchdown catches.

Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen: 175 catches/2,342 receiving yards/20 touchdown catches.

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Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow: 226 catches/2,591 receiving yards/20 touchdowns catches.

D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett: 148 catches/2,138 receiving yards/20 touchdown catches.

Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins: 155 catches/2,546 receiving yards/19 touchdown catches.

Mike Evans and Chris Godwin: 172 catches/2,138 receiving yards/19 touchdown catches.

The league's best wide receiver tandems seem to combine for roughly 20 touchdown catches per season, something Samuel and Aiyuk haven't proven they can do yet. Samuel in particular has caught just 10 touchdown passes in his career, because he's not a big red-zone threat as a receiver. Ironically, he's a much bigger threat in the red zone when he plays running back, as he scored eight rushing touchdowns just last season. As a receiver, he doesn't have the size, length or route-running ability to consistently win in the end zone.

Still, Samuel and Aiyuk are young and improving. And this year, they'll get to play with a quarterback who actually throws the ball down the field. Maybe their production will explode.