If you were among the many fantasy football gamers who expected a true breakout season from San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel in 2020, it’s time to reconsider — but not entirely write off — that idea. The second-year pro broke his foot in a workout session Thursday, June 18, and he will miss between three and four months of action.
A Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone is among the toughest to overcome, and it generally requires hardware to be inserted into the foot for stabilization. Dez Bryant suffered the injury in September of 2015, and while he missed only seven games, the former Dallas Cowboy really wasn’t quite as explosive afterward. Marvin Jones underwent surgery for it in 2014 but came back strong.
The best-case scenario for his return is Week 2, and the extended range is Week 6, depending upon his conditioning. The 49ers are thin as it is at the position, and the setback will have a group of youngsters thrust into the spotlight. Rookie first-rounder Brandon Aiyuk is fairly raw and will be asked to take on the No. 1 duties, but this run-heavy offense’s top target is ultimately tight end George Kittle.
Veterans Kendrick Bourne and Dante Pettis may be involved more than planned, and second-year receiver Jalen Hurd could benefit the most from this situation. Hurd, however, is arguably the rawest of the lot, and he’s effectively playing in a rookie season after redshirting in 2019.
Even deeper, Trent Taylor hopes to return from a serious injury of his own, and veteran Travis Benjamin was signed in the offseason.
More passes to the running backs can be expected, and the Niners are likely to entertain free-agent receiver options if Samuel appears to be on the long end of the prognosis. Interestingly, Bryant could be on their radar if it looks like Samuel will miss extensive action.
Fantasy football takeaway
From Samuel’s perspective, there’s thankfully some time yet, and if he misses only one game, the breakout season really could be within reach. The safe approach is to expect him to miss three or four games, and that would probably result in another couple of appearances before he’s fully up to speed. If you’re drafting early, treat him as a No. 3 wideout in all scoring formats. Should you have the luxury of waiting until late in the summer, we’ll have a better idea of his timeline to adjust accordingly. Finishing as a No. 2 receiver isn’t out of the question for him just yet.
Drop quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a low-tier QB2, and expect more targets for Kittle. He remains a strong TE1, if not the TE1. Presuming we indeed see a traditional training camp, Aiyuk will be worked in as much as possible and stands to benefit greatly. His speed is the rook’s best attribute, and there’s low-end WR3 or flex value if Samuel misses significant time.
Bourne and Pettis are merely fliers in the deepest of leagues, with pristine matchups being the only justifiable way to play them. Both RBs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman are now solidly in play as weekly lineup options the entire while Samuel sits.
The most important aspect of evaluating the situation is closely monitoring media reports of Samuel’s injury. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on The Huddle.