Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


49ers’ George Kittle and Deebo Samuel among PFF’s top pass-catching tandems

Jun 14, 2021 at 6:18 AM--


Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus recently ranked the NFL's top 10 pass-catching tandems ahead of the 2021 season. For the San Francisco 49ers, you could probably make an argument for wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk to be thrown in the mix of some combination. However, he is just entering his second season and still has much to prove.

Instead, Treash went with All-Pro tight end George Kittle and third-year wideout Deebo Samuel. The duo comes in at No. 10 on the list.

To prove Treash correct, the duo will need to stay healthy in 2021. Both players, like much of the roster, struggled with injuries last season. Kittle missed half the season, and Samuel missed nine games. You could say that Samuel missed 10 games. He had just one snap against the Washington Football Team before exiting the matchup.

"A broken foot derailed a portion of Kittle's 2020 season," wrote Treash, "but he still managed to generate the third-best receiving grade among all tight ends to bring his grade since 2018 to the No. 1 spot at the position. He has generated 2.92 yards per route run over that three-year span, which is over half a yard more than any other tight end in the NFL. Yes, even ahead of Kansas City's Travis Kelce."

Kittle finished last season with 48 receptions for 634 yards and two scores. Expanded to a 16-game season, he would have been on pace for his second-best NFL campaign.

While Samuel hauled in just 33 passes for 391 yards with a touchdown in his limited playing time, his 12.2 yards after the catch per reception led the NFL last season. That followed up a strong rookie 2019 campaign that saw the wideout catch 57 passes for 802 yards with three scores through 15 games.

"Injuries also got in Samuel's way in 2020, but when healthy, he was exactly what we expected: an after-the-catch phenom," wrote Treash. "He has produced 9.8 yards after the catch per reception in his two NFL seasons. Not only does that lead all wide receivers, but it leads the group by a substantial margin of 2.5 yards. He has also broken 28 total tackles in regular-season play over that span, tying for the fifth-most at the position. Remember, he played only six games in 2020."

Of course, Aiyuk will have an opportunity to make his case for being included in the conversation. Big things are expected from the receiver in his sophomore season. He caught 60 passes for 748 yards with five scores during his rookie season.

Aiyuk finished 2020 with the third-most receiving yards by a rookie in 49ers franchise history. Only Jerry Rice (927 yards in 1985) and Samuel (802 in 2019) had more. Aiyuk's 60 receptions and five scores each rank as the second-most by a rookie in franchise history.

The top two pass-catching tandems on Treash's list are Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs and Julio Jones and A.J. Brown of the Tennessee Titans.

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