It's hard to get off to a better start than Deebo Samuel has in his third season. In fact, his start is the best in 49ers history for a receiver, one of the best ever for any NFL receiver, and through only seven games he's had the best year of his career.
To put Samuel's start into perspective, we dove into the numbers with the Stathead tool on Pro Football Reference.
There are zero wide receivers in 49ers history who've had more receiving yards through seven games than Samuel. He's up to 819 yards after his 171-yard outburst Sunday in Chicago. The previous high through seven games in 49ers history belonged to Jerry Rice, who posted 781 yards in that span in 1986.
Since the merger, only six players have posted higher receiving yard totals through seven games:
2000: Colts WR Marvin Harison, 853
1995: Rams WR Isaac Bruce, 833
2016: Falcons WR Julio Jones, 830
2011: Patriots WR Wes Welker, 824
2018: Vikings WR Adam Thielen, 822
2000: Rams WR Isaac Bruce, 821
With his 171 yards in Chicago, Samuel now has three games with more than 150 yards this season. The all-time record for 150-yard games in a season is five, which Antonio Brown, Tim Brown, Roy Green and Jerry Rice all did. No 49ers player has ever done it three times in the first seven games.
It's also worth noting that Samuel's torrid pace, combined with the 17th game just added this season, puts him on track to break the all-time receiving yards record set by Lions WR Calvin Johnson in 2012. That year in 16 games, Johnson put up an astonishing 1,964 yards. More than 100 yards clear of Jerry Rice's previous record of 1,848 set in 1995. Samuel's 117 yards-per-game pace puts him on track for 1,989 yards in 17 games, which would set a new NFL record.
Even his 16-game pace eclipses Rice's best season at 1,872 - 24 yards north of Rice's record-setting 1995 campaign.
Removing the historical context and just focusing on Samuel helps put the improbability of this season in perspective. The 2019 second-round pick from South Carolina had a very good rookie season where he put up 802 yards and three touchdown catches on 57 receptions in 15 games.
His sophomore campaign was riddled with injuries and he posted just 391 yards and one receiving touchdown on 33 catches in seven games.
This season he's not only blown past last year's seven-game totals, he's eclipsed most of his rookie season numbers as well. He's up to 44 catches, 819 yards and four receiving touchdowns. If he didn't catch another pass this season he'd have new career-highs in yards and touchdown catches.
The 49ers needed Samuel to make a leap this year, and leap he has into a stratosphere that's putting him in a place with the NFL's all-time greats.