Expectations for Deebo Samuel's Sophomore Season
Jose Luis Sanchez III
After years of heavily investing at the wide-receiver position, the San Francisco 49ers finally hit on one with Deebo Samuel. The former South Carolina product was a fantastic addition to the 49ers' offense.
He didn't start to hit his stride until the second half of the season, right about when the Niners acquired Emmanuel Sanders from the Denver Broncos. That trade was well-worth the investment by the 49ers to expedite Samuel's growth. He ended up becoming the team's best receiving option following tight end George Kittle.
Now that Samuel has shown what he is capable of, his sophomore season in 2020 will demand much more of him. His expectations for the upcoming season will be to break 1,000 yards receiving along with establishing himself as a leader.
I have little doubt that Samuel will be able to eclipse that number. That much should actually be a given and is the most obvious expectation. The one expectation that is flying under the radar for him is becoming a leader.
With Sanders gone, there is no longer a veteran presence among the wide receivers. Sure, there is Travis Benjamin, but he isn't a lock to make the roster and isn't of the same caliber as Sanders. This is the time for Samuel to take the next step in both production and leadership.
And that is quite a heavy plate for him to consume for his sophomore season. But there really isn't anyone else who can take on that role. Wide receiver is an incredibly young group for the 49ers.
Responsibility to take the lead has to fall on Samuel given his impact in the offense. He is the best one to lead by example, at the very least. In fact, that most likely is going to be how he demonstrates leadership, because he isn't really much of "speech" guy.
Samuel needs to be profound in this area. Practically all of the wide receivers are similar in skill set. That isn't by any accident. Kyle Shanahan wants everyone to be the same so he doesn't need to change much in his playbook. Samuel is the perfect example of what Shanahan wants from his guys: Aggressiveness, strong blocking, smooth routes, and being lethal with the ball in hand.
That is a prototypical receiver in Shanahan's offense and everyone is capable of it. Samuel is the most proficient at it, so he is going to need to shave down some of the rough edges of the guys who are struggling to execute. He can let them know or show them what is the ideal way to do anything that they get wrong.
This is the way to expedite some of the receivers who are struggling to get it. Samuel needs to be the 2019 Sanders in 2020. Productivity for his sophomore season is a clear-cut expectation. But it his leadership that must match that production if the receivers want to be uniform.