Hall of Famer Compares Deebo Samuel to Forgotten Super Bowl Winner

Deebo Samuel

Getty A Hall of Famer compared Deebo Samuel to a forgotten Super Bowl winner.

There aren’t many players like Deebo Samuel in today’s NFL, if any. You have to go back in time to find a suitable comparison for the most versatile playmaker on the San Francisco 49ers’ roster.

That’s just what a Hall of Fame defensive back did when he watched Samuel torch the Los Angeles Rams for a touchdown on Monday Night Football. On the play, Samuel reminded this former NFL Defensive Player of the Year of a forgotten Super Bowl winner.

Hall of Famer Makes Unlikely Samuel Comparison

Samuel burned the Rams on a 57-yard catch and run in the second quarter. The play was pure Samuel brilliance, strong hands, powerful running and awesome speed.

Among the wowed onlookers was Charles Woodson, the former Raiders and Green Bay Packers defensive back, who declared Samuel reminds him of another hybrid receiver who thrived after the catch:

It’s a curious comparison at first glance. Not least because Samuel has arguably surpassed Harvin’s exploits in the pros.

While the latter was named Offensive Rookie of the Year with the Minnesota Vikings in 2009, Samuel has already been named an All-Pro, something Harvin never achieved. Harvin also went to just one Pro Bowl, a tally Samuel matched in 2021.

Samuel is a linchpin for the 49ers, who secured his future with a three-year contract extension worth $71.55 million this offseason. If he sees out the full deal, Samuel will have played eight seasons with the Niners.

His tenure would be in sharp contrast to Harvin, who never spent more than four seasons with a single team during a nomadic career that also included stops with the Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.

Harvin actually won a Super Bowl amid his many travels, helping the Seahawks flatten the Denver Broncos 43-8 to cap the 2013 season. He accounted for one of Seattle’s five touchdowns when he returned the second-half kickoff 87 yards:

Samuel has yet to make a similar impact in the return game, even though he averaged 25 yards running back three kicks last season, per Pro Football Reference.

Nonetheless, there are other similarities to support Woodson’s comparison.

Samuel Comparison Stronger on 2nd Glance

You only need to look at Harvin’s touchdown against the Packers in 2009 to see how well Woodson’s comparison holds up. The play, almost identical to Samuel’s latest scoring grab, both in terms of the catch and yards after it, was highlighted by Adam Patrick of The Viking Age:

This score is a reminder that although Harvin never came close to matching the 1,405 receiving yards Samuel posted last season, he was still a productive wideout in his own right. That production allowed him to finish his career ranked 13th all time among the Vikings’ receiving leaders.

The true similarities between Harvin and Samuel lie in their ability to gash defenses as de facto running backs. It’s something Samuel has turned into a niche hybrid position as a “wide back” in the 49ers’ offense.

His 59 rushing attempts for 365 yards and eight touchdowns helped power the Niners to the NFC Championship Game last season. Harvin had similar output as a runner in 2011, when he carried the ball 52 times for 345 yards, the busiest rushing season of a career spent excelling in multiple roles:

He wasn’t used as a running back as often again, but it’s easy to wonder how effective somebody with Harvin’s skills would be playing the role Samuel has taken to another level today.

This is the true comparison between Harvin and Samuel. It’s not a like-for-like stylistically. Samuel is a bigger, more powerful runner, but he lacks Harvin’s top-tier breakaway speed.

What Harvin did was set the stage for Samuel by playing an early iteration of the role the 49ers’ best offensive weapon has evolved from a mere schematic wrinkle into a viable strategy.

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