Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Where do 49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel rank amongst playoff WRs?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jan 26, 2023 at 1:00 PM--

The wide receiver position has become one of the most talented in the NFL, with an influx of talent coming from the draft each year, making it no surprise that there are some high-caliber wideouts remaining in the playoffs.

Each of the four teams remaining(San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs, and Philadelphia Eagles) have talented skill-position players, which have become vital in roster-building for rosters to experience success in the NFL.

With that said, let's evaluate the top remaining receivers in the playoffs, including San Francisco's own Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel.

Disclaimer: This list is based on receivers purely as pass-catchers, instead of their entire skillset.

1. JaMarr Chase(CIN)

JaMarr Chase is one of the most talented wideouts in the NFL, and he re-affirmed that this season with 87 catches for 1,046 yards and nine touchdowns in just 12 games.

Chase is a complete receiver, with the requisite speed to burn cornerbacks deep, while possessing elite route-running and skills at the catch-point.

While Chase can be prone to drops, he's elite at what he does and has played a significant role in the development of quarterback Joe Burrow into one of the best signal-callers in the NFL.

2. A.J. Brown(PHI)

With a change in scenery, A.J. Brown enjoyed the best season of his career, catching 88 yards for 1,496 yards and 11 touchdowns, including an extremely impressive 17 yards per catch.

Brown is the receiver most similar to San Francisco's Deebo Samuel with his build, but possesses better route-running and surefire hands, especially at the catch-point, which paved the way for him to be one of the NFL's highest-paid receivers last offseason.

Similar to Chase, Brown played an integral role in the development of his quarterback, Jalen Hurts, who significantly jumped in several statistical categories following the arrival of his top receiver this season.

Brown was well-rewarded for his elite season in 2022, being named to the AP All-Pro second-team, and is deserving of the second-best receiver spot on this list of remaining receivers in the NFL.

3. Brandon Aiyuk(SF)

This might be a huge surprise to many, but if 49ers fans have been paying attention this season, they'll understand just how good Brandon Aiyuk is as a receiver.

Aiyuk enjoyed a breakout season in 2022, eclipsing 1,000 yards for the first time this season with a 78-catch, 1,015-yard, eight-touchdown season, which led the 49ers in the regular season.

However, Aiyuk could very well be deserving of more volume if he was in a different situation that was more pass-centric and involved fewer skill-position players.

Aiyuk's value is shown in the 49ers' offense as a receiver who is dominant after the catch with his shiftiness.

Additionally, Aiyuk's route-running is amongst the best in the NFL, as he possesses the arsenal to be any type of receiver, and has an elite release package, allowing him to win immediately at the line of scrimmage and gain separation on routes, hence why he falls here on this list.

4. Tee Higgins(CIN)

Before I continue, let me emphasize that the gap between the No. 3 and the No. 5 spot is minimal, as each of these three receivers is elite in their respective roles and could very well be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL.

Higgins is a special talent, serving as a complement to Chase in Cincinnati for Joe Burrow, and caught 74 passes for 1,029 yards and seven touchdowns in 2022, despite facing a flurry of injuries.

Higgins is dominant at the catch point with his size, while possessing enough speed to be a deep threat and good route-running capabilities.

Like Aiyuk, Higgins could be deserving of more volume in a different situation, but serves as one of the best No. 2 receivers in the NFL.

To me, Aiyuk possesses the better route-running and separation skills, while the gap at the catch-point isn't too far between the two wideouts, hence the slight difference in ranking.

5. Devonta Smith(PHI)

Devonta Smith is yet another special talent, who flourished as the No. 2 wideout in Philadelphia this season behind A.J. Brown with a 95-catch, 1,196-yard, and seven-touchdown year.

While he's a smaller receiver, Smith hasn't let that size affect him in the NFL, as he wins at the line of scrimmage, while possessing good route-running capabilities and the requisite deep speed to challenge cornerbacks deep.

The gap between Smith, Higgins, and Aiyuk as receivers is extremely narrow, making it tough to rank the three as such, but it's important to value truly how talented each of these No. 2 wideouts is.

6. Deebo Samuel(SF)

This may sound like a disservice to Deebo Samuel, who was arguably the best receiver in football a year ago with a 77-catch, 1,405-yard season, but it's more so a reflection of the talent at the position around the NFL.

As a pure weapon, Samuel is easily higher on this list and may even be at No. 1 with the way he operates with the ball in his hands.

However, in a ranking dependent on purely receiver skills, Samuel falls at No. 6, as his route-running capabilities, separation, and hands are not as good as the other wideouts on the list, which is why his role has changed in 2022.

Samuel has been utilized more near the line of scrimmage in 2022 because that is where he excels the most: with the ball in his hands. However, when challenging defenders vertically, Samuel has been inconsistent in gaining separation.

Of course, Samuel is a unique player with multi-dimensional ability as a receiver and a running back, and is potentially the most-fun player to watch on the 49ers, but he ranks at No. 6 at the position on this list when judging dependent on purely wideout skills.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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