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The NFL won’t scare the 49ers’ Deebo Samuel, the draft’s most fearless receiver

Retired defensive end Stephen White instantly became a fan after watching Samuel, who doesn’t mind getting his hands a little dirty.

The San Francisco 49ers picked Deebo Samuel 36th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, in the second round. Here’s what Stephen White had to say about Samuel ahead of the draft:

Before I get into what Deebo Samuel is, let me assure you of what he is not.


That guy would try to run through a brick wall if it was standing between him and the end zone. He isn’t exactly small at 5’11 and 214 pounds anyway, and he plays with a nice edge to him. Not only is he fearless when it comes to contact, he practically searches it out when he has the ball in his hands.

That was one thing that constantly jumped out to me about Samuel while watching his tape. Once he was in possession of the football, he always tried to get every single inch out of that play.

And he didn’t mind dishing out a little punishment in the process.

He never went down easy, and it usually took more than one guy to get Samuel on the turf. And if they didn’t get him down in a hurry, it wasn’t unusual to see him moving the pile.

Now, I have a soft spot for physical receivers and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I love to see skill position guys who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. That describes Samuel to a T, because he was always about that action when he had the rock in his hands.

When you have a guy who keeps scraping and clawing for extra yardage like that, he is sure to break a small gain into a big one eventually, and sure enough Samuel did just that.

If teams don’t try to gang tackle Samuel on the next level, he will make them pay.

Samuel is scary with AND without the ball in his hands.

Another way his fearlessness showed was when he was trying to catch balls in traffic even though he knew there was a good chance he was going to get blasted. He didn’t hesitate or deviate from his route in those situations, and when he had a chance to make the catch, he found a way to do so.

Running red zone slants into traffic was his jam, and I’m betting that will carry over well once he gets to the pros.

Samuel is also very athletic, as he showed at the combine where he was able to post a respectable 4.48-second time in the 40-yard dash along with an outstanding 39-inch vertical leap. At his height, I don’t know that Samuel will be a big back-shoulder fade guy in the NFL, but he did show the ability to go up and catch contested balls.

That is part of the reason why I believe Samuel will be a viable red zone threat. Even if his new team doesn’t throw him a lot of fades inside the 20-yard line, just the fact he can make those kinds of catches will force them to play him honest.

If a corner has to worry about covering a fade inside the 20, that could open up those much more effective quick slants for him when they get down near the goal line. If the corner lets him get inside, you can just about cancel Christmas.

As productive as he was with the ball, Samuel brought the funk as a blocker several times as well. I don’t know about you, but I get fired up when I see a receiver decleat somebody on a long run.

I wouldn’t say Samuel was always a dominating blocker, but when he got after you, he got after you. Blocking isn’t that big of a deal for wide receivers, but I’d much rather have the guy who unleashes on cats from time to time, than the guy who usually tries to avoid the smoke.

His deep-threat ability is a question mark, but he can do pretty much ANYTHING.

Of course there was a lot more to like about Samuel’s game than just his physicality.

There was also his versatility. South Carolina had Samuel lined up all over the place and he looked comfortable running routes from everywhere.

If you need a guy to line up wide, Samuel can certainly do that. If you need a slot receiver, well, he can do that, too.

Whatever role you need him to play, Samuel can fit right in. Besides, with Samuel’s superior run-after-the-catch ability, you basically just want to find a way to feed him the football, anyway. That includes jet sweeps and end-arounds, by the way.

South Carolina had him running all kinds of routes, too, so Samuel shouldn’t have a hard transition to an NFL route tree. He is going to be ready to play from day one from a preparation standpoint. It will just be a matter of how his new team decides to use him.

One minor concern of mine was that Samuel didn’t get many opportunities to run straight go routes to try to take the top off of defenses in the four games I watched. He didn’t get a ton of separation on some of the deep balls they did try to throw him, either.

The fact he caught the ball well in traffic in those four games helps to mitigate those concerns, however. Also, Samuel is such a good run-after-catch guy that he doesn’t necessarily need to catch a lot of bombs to make big plays. A sub-4.5 40 means he should definitely be fast enough to get open in the NFL, too.

Maybe catching bombs just won’t be a big part of his game. Or maybe it will. Either way, I think he is still a helluva prospect. Fades/go routes aren’t usually exactly high percentage throws, anyway.

Trust me: You’ll enjoy watching Samuel in the NFL.

I would rank Samuel fourth of the four receivers I have broken down so far, but he really isn’t that far off from the rest of the pack.

Other than D.K. Metcalf, who is a pretty unique prospect, the other three guys, including Samuel, are somewhat similar as far as their potential goes.

If I wasn’t able to get A.J. Brown for instance, I wouldn’t shed that many tears if I was still able to pick Samuel a little later in the draft. The difference just isn’t that great between the two, from my perspective.

I don’t know if Samuel will ultimately end up getting drafted in the first round, but I do believe he has first-round ability. No matter where he ends up getting selected, I see a very productive future for him, barring injury.

If he ends up going to a team with a creative offensive coordinator, Samuel should be a guy who fills up the stat sheet just about every week.

After watching his film and seeing the way he sells out to maximize his production, Samuel has made a fan out of me. Wherever he ends up going, once more people see him play, I am sure I won’t be alone.

For the purposes of this breakdown I watched former South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel play against Vanderbilt, Missouri, Texas A&M, and Clemson. Those represented the fourth, sixth, seventh, and 12th games on South Carolina’s schedule last season, respectively.