NFL Exec on Ranking Deebo Samuel: 'As a Pure WR, I'm Not Sure Where to Put Him'

Adam WellsJuly 13, 2022

INGLEWOOD, CA - JANUARY 30:  Deebo Samuel #19 of the 49ers during the NFC Conference Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams on January 30, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. (Photo by Icon Sportswire)
Icon Sportswire

Deebo Samuel established himself as one of the most electric offensive players in the NFL last season, but the San Francisco 49ers star is still something of a mystery to people in the league at his primary position.

In Jeremy Fowler's poll of wide receivers for ESPN, one NFL personnel director said he doesn't know how to rank Samuel at the position.

"As a pure WR, I'm not sure where to put him," he said. "As an offensive skill player, he's elite and belongs in there."

Those comments come at an interesting point in Samuel's career. Fowler reported last month that the 26-year-old still hasn't rescinded his trade request.

Samuel did attend the 49ers' mandatory minicamp from June 7-9, which was the first time he was seen publicly with the team following his trade request in April.

Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport (h/t NFL.com's Nick Shook), Samuel's trade request wasn't related to money but rather him being "uncomfortable with how he was used in Kyle Shanahan's offense" last season.

Assuming that remains the case, the thing that makes Samuel special also appears to be something he doesn't like.

There have been some chicken-or-the-egg questions related to Samuel's success in Shanahan's offense, though the partnership between the two has been perfect, at least on the field.

"Samuel's unique skill set makes him an invaluable asset for the San Francisco 49ers," Brad Spielberger of PFF wrote in February. "And it's simultaneously true that playing for Kyle Shanahan is very beneficial for Samuel because Shanahan has a track record of using his players' skill sets better than most offensive coaches. This makes him a perfect candidate for an early extension."

Shanahan's scheme and play-calling tend to put his best playmakers in space to create after they get the ball, and Samuel has done it as well as anyone in San Francisco's offense since he entered the league in 2019.

Last season was the most productive year of Samuel's career, as the South Carolina product ranked third in the NFL with 1,770 yards from scrimmage and tied for seventh with 14 total touchdowns.

Samuel had 77 receptions on 121 targets as a wide receiver and 59 carries as a running back. He had four games with at least 100 receiving yards in the first eight weeks of the season but just one 100-yard receiving game over the final nine 10 weeks.

He's under contract for the 2022 season at $4 million and will be a free agent after that.