No NFL receiver is quite like San Francisco 49ers' Deebo Samuel

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Two days before his San Francisco 49ers took on the Los Angeles Rams, wide receiver Deebo Samuel was asked which receivers around the NFL he likes to watch.

The answer: not many. Pressed further, Samuel clarified the only wideout he really watches closely is, well, himself.

Given where he is after nine games and another tour-de-Deebo performance against the Rams on Monday night, that makes sense. After all, it would be hard for Samuel to learn much from other receivers when there is nobody in the league quite like him.

"It's a unique talent," quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. "Just the durability of the guy, the route running ability, the mental capacity just to keep everything he has in his head that he has to do on a week-to-week basis, it's really impressive. The dude can play multiple positions and he's earned everything he's gotten."

Maybe we should have already reached this point but just in case it wasn't clear, let's spell it out: Samuel has earned the right to be talked about among the game's best receivers. Sure, he might not be considered a "traditional" No. 1 wideout but maybe it's time to rethink what that means.

On Monday Samuel had five catches for 97 yards and a touchdown and a career-high five carries for 36 yards and another score. Samuel lined up at multiple receiver spots, running back and even fullback.

Samuel put the finishing touches on his latest do-everything masterpiece with a 40-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown on fourth down that put the game away. Afterward, he stalked up the sideline with a big smile on his face while wearing the team's recently-acquired "playmaker chain" -- a gaudy, bedazzled and oversized 49ers helmet on a massive gold chain courtesy of injured cornerback Jason Verrett -- as a loud "Dee-bo, Dee-bo" chant rained down from the fans.

The scene had the distinct look of a full-fledged NFL superstar announcing his arrival to a national television audience.

"There's not a lot of comps, especially the way coach Shanahan and our offensive staff makes plays for him," tight end George Kittle said. "Line him up at running back and toss him the ball. Just the physicality that he plays with every single snap and he can score every single play. You've got a guy like that, it's pretty amazing."

How amazing has Samuel's breakout season been? Consider:

  • Samuel is second in the NFL with 979 receiving yards, which is also the second-most through nine games in franchise history.

  • That total is good for 43% of the team's receiving yards, the highest percentage by any player through nine games since Antonio Brown in 2015.

  • His 517 yards after the catch leads the NFL and gives him a chance to be the first wideout to do that since Demaryius Thomas in 2013. He's also averaging 9.6 yards after the catch per reception, which would be the highest for any receiver with 50 or more receptions over the past 15 seasons.

And that's just the damage Samuel has done while playing wide receiver. The Niners have dabbled with using Samuel as a running back in the past, but they've been doing it more frequently this season. He has eight carries for 50 yards in those situations and looks more than comfortable.

With all that's asked of him, one might think Samuel has too much on his plate. If he does, he sure isn't showing it.

"You kind of know what running plays you're going to get so it's not too much stress on learning the running back position," Samuel said. "At first it was kind of hard but as time goes, it just gets easier and easier."

And harder and harder for opposing defenses to stop.