The San Francisco 49ers struggled last year when they entered the red zone, and other NFL teams knew it. The 49ers only managed to reach the end zone 41.18 percent of the time when they crossed their opponents 20-yard line, which ranked worst in the NFL in 2018. That number wasn't much better in 2017 (47.06, 27th in the NFL)

When the 49ers entered the red zone, many teams would take away the 49ers' best option — tight end George Kittle. Outside the 20, Kittle was a beast and caught almost 67 percent of the passes thrown to him. Inside the red zone, though, there wasn't as much space for Kittle, and it showed. Kittle only caught 10-of-19 passes inside the 20. This was partially due to double teams, and defenses daring the 49ers for someone else besides Kittle to beat them.



Enter second-round selection, Deebo Samuel. If Samuel wasn't on the 49ers' radar before the Senior Bowl, he sure was after. Samuel dominated the Senior Bowl, and he owned the one-on-one drills against defensive backs during practice, especially inside the 20. Samuel's footwork should create problems for many teams off the line. This combined with Samuel's physicality, and polished route running, should open the door for more one-on-one opportunities for Kittle to excel inside the red zone.



Head coach Kyle Shanahan should have a variety of options in 2019 with the arrival of Samuel, and both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon returning from injury. The 49ers will also look to be more physical in 2019, and the addition of Samuel will only emphasize this strategy. Kittle's numbers inside the 20-yard line should improve, which will make 49er fans and fantasy owners happy, while also improving on their league-worst efficiency in the red zone.