Davante Adams. Stefon Diggs. DeAndre Hopkins. Tyreek Hill. These are the names you hear most often when listening to discussions of the best wide receivers in the NFL. However, through the first four games of the 2021 season, a new pass-catcher is trying to add his name to the list, and at least one Hall of Fame receiver thinks we need to start talking about this player as such. It’s San Francisco 49ers WR Deebo Samuel.
Deebo Samuel is tearing up secondaries so far in 2021
Deebo Samuel played four seasons for his home state college, the University of South Carolina. His 148 catches, 2,076 yards, and 16 touchdowns enticed the San Francisco 49ers to take the 6-foot pass-catcher with the No. 36 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Samuel burst onto the NFL scene in his rookie season as a big-play threat. All told, he caught 57 balls for 802 yards and scored three touchdowns through the air and three more on the ground. Injuries hampered his sophomore campaign, but he still managed both a receiving and rushing TD while playing just 28% of his team’s snaps last season.
In 2021, Samuel is off to an incredibly fast start.
Through four games, the former Gamecock leads the league in receiving yards with 490, is fifth in receptions with 28, ninth in touchdowns with four, and has the second-longest TD catch of the season at 79 yards.
Samuel and Tyreek Hill are the only WRs with multiple games of 150-plus receiving yards this season. The 49ers pass-catcher went for 189 in Week 1 vs. the Detroit Lions and 156 in the Week 4 divisional tilt vs. the Seattle Seahawks.
Anyone paying attention can clearly see that Deebo Samuel is currently one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and there’s at least one Pro Football Hall of Fame WR who is definitely paying attention.
Michael Irving believes Samuel is becoming one of the best receivers in the NFL
On Monday, Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame wideout-turned-analyst Michael Irvin joined the sports talk radio show Damon, Ratto & Kolsky on 95.7 The Game in San Francisco.
While discussing the current state of the Niners, host Damon Bruce asked Irvin about Samuel, saying, “Michael, would you be comfortable putting Deebo Samuel on that top tier of wide receiver talent right now?”
Irvin responded enthusiastically:
I was going to bring this up to you anyway. He is absolutely moving towards that mark. He is saying, ‘start including me in these conversations,’ with the way he is playing. And man, he ran a slant route yesterday, and he snatched the ball out the air. I can’t tell you what that takes, to have that kind of courage to go in, snatch it with your hands, and still try and get up the field. … He’s an incredible young player.Michael Irvin on Deebo Samuel
Irvin even admitted that when he played, he would catch those types of slant routes against his body so he could better and more safely absorb the hit if a defender came to lay him out.
When one of the best receivers of the last 30 years offers this type of praise, it means more people should be paying attention to what Samuel is doing in 2021.
The San Francisco 49ers take on the Arizona Cardinals in a crucial Week 5 NFC West matchup
As good as Deebo Samuel has been for the San Francisco 49ers this season, it’s only translated to a 2-2 record thus far. The team has lost their last two games against two of the best teams in the NFC, the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks.
In Week 5, Samuel and the Niners have the Herculean task of unseating the NFL’s only undefeated team and the leader of their division, the Arizona Cardinals.
Upping the degree of difficulty for the Bay Area team is that the game will likely be rookie Trey Lance’s first NFL start. Incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo is questionable for Sunday with a right calf injury that knocked him out of the Seahawks game last weekend.
This season, the Cardinals defense hasn’t given up 100 yards to a receiver yet, so Samuel will have his work cut out for him. If the 49ers hope to win, though, the NFL’s leading pass-catcher will have to show up and play like a superstar Sunday afternoon.
It will be a major test for Samuel but, if he passes, it will become even more apparent that the name Deebo Samuel has to be among the first mentioned as the best WR in the NFL.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference