San Francisco 49ers Targets Data Ahead of Super Bowl 58: Aiyuk, Kittle, Samuel, McCaffrey and More

The San Francisco 49ers square off against the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday, February 11. This article breaks down all the targets that the 49ers’ pass catchers have received this year on the road to Las Vegas. Continue below for the NFC Champion 49ers’ target share analysis ahead of their Super Bowl matchup with the Chiefs.

49ers Targets Breakdown

The Chiefs’ and 49ers’ franchises have followed a similar path over the last few years, but in opposite ways. The Chiefs’ success in recent seasons was predicated mostly on its offense led by Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid, but this season the offense was just good enough while the elite defense was their key to success.

The opposite story has played in out in San Francisco, where the 49ers contended for Super Bowls in recent seasons based more on their elite defense than their merely above average offense. While both units were excellent this season, it was the offense that ranked 1st in both DVOA and EPA and was the strength of the team.

As such, we are going to break down the passing offense by analyzing how the targets were distributed this season. Let’s dive into the 49ers’ top pass catching options and look at not only how often they were targeted, but also where on the field they were targeted most often. Note that the target share data below is sourced from Pro Football Focus and may differ from other football data sources.

49ers Targets Overview

These were the 49ers’ total target leaders this season, sorted by total targets and including target share and targets per route run. For reference, the 49ers have had 518 total targets this season (including playoffs). Note that target share data is based on the Chiefs’ total targets and does not consider games a player missed, so their actual target share in games they played will be higher.

  • Brandon Aiyuk – 18 games, 523 routes run, 115 targets, 22.2% target share, 0.22 targets per route run
  • George Kittle – 18 games, 533 routes run, 98 targets, 18.9% target share, 0.18 targets per route run
  • Deebo Samuel – 17 games, 426 routes run, 98 targets, 18.9% target share, 0.23 targets per route run
  • Christian McCaffrey – 18 games, 488 routes run, 96 targets, 18.5% target share, 0.20 targets per route run
  • Jauan Jennings – 15 games, 278 routes run, 38 targets, 7.3% target share, 0.14 targets per route run
  • Kyle Juszczyk – 19 games, 238 routes run, 18 targets, 3.5% target share, 0.08 targets per route run
  • Ray-Ray McCloud III – 13 games, 139 routes run, 17 targets, 3.3% target share, 0.12 targets per route run
  • Ronnie Bell – 14 games, 78 routes run, 13 targets, 2.5% target share, 0.17 targets per route run
  • Elijah Mitchell – 10 games, 52 routes run, 8 targets, 1.5% target share, 0.15 targets per route run
  • Chris Conley – 9 games, 71 routes run, 6 targets, 1.2% target share, 0.08 targets per route run
  • Jordan Mason – 7 games, 35 routes run, 4 targets, 0.8% target share, 0.11 targets per route run
  • Willie Snead IV – 4 games, 24 routes run, 3 targets, 0.6% target share, 0.13 targets per route run
  • Charlie Woerner – 18 games, 99 routes run, 3 targets, 0.6% target share, 0.03 targets per route run
  • Ross Dwelley – 10 games, 21 routes run, 1 target, 0.002% target share, 0.05 targets per route run

Deep Targets

Let’s take that target share data a bit deeper and look at who the top deep threats were on the Chiefs this season. Brandon Aiyuk was the clear top target on deep passes (20+ air yards) with 24 targets, while tight end George Kittle was a distant second with 11.

Aiyuk’s 24 deep targets represented 20.9% of his total targets (115). He caught 15 of those 24 deep balls for an astounding 62.5% catch rate on deep passes. Only George Kittle had a better deep catch rate on the 49ers at 63.6%, but he did it at a much lower volume.

Both Aiyuk and Kittle earned the highest possible grade from PFF (99.9) on receiving deep passes. Deebo Samuel was not far behind at 96.8, but only had 8 targets. Samuel also led the team in average depth of target (ADOT) on deep passes at 30.4 yards, followed by Aiyuk at 27.8.

The rest of the 49ers’ deep targets went to Jennings (6), McCloud (3), Bell (2), McCaffrey (1), Juszczyk (1), and Conley (1).

Slot Targets

Another way to drill down a layer on target share data is looking at slot targets. This tells us which players were targeted most often when operating primarily over the middle of the field.

The 49ers love to attack the middle of the field and had five different players with at least 20 targets from the slot: Kittle (34), Samuel (33), Aiyuk (33), Jennings (24), and McCaffrey (21). All five players caught over 70% of their targets from the slot, led by Samuel with 27 catches and an 81.8% catch rate.

Aiyuk had the most yards from the slot with 457, for similar reasons as discussed above: he was the deep target. He had a team-high 13.3 ADOT and 18.3 yards per reception from the slot.

Jennings was the player most likely to line up in the slot when he was on the field. While he was just 4th on the team in slot targets, those 24 targets represented 63.2% of his total targets (38). Of the players with double-digit targets, he was the only one that saw more than 35% of his targets from the slot. His overall numbers likely would be much higher if he had a bigger role in the offense.

The rest of the 49ers’ slot targets went to McCloud (8), Bell (6), Juszczyk (5), Snead (2), and Mitchell (1).

Brandon Aiyuk Targets

The 49ers’ most prolific pass catchers deserve a bit more attention in terms of how their targets broke down this season, so we’ll finish this up with a more in-depth look at Aiyuk and Samuel’s targets.

This chart from PFF shows how Aiyuk’s targets and catches broke down for different areas of the field. In each section of the field, the top line represents catches/targets with (drops) in parentheses. The second line indicates yards gained with (YAC) in parentheses.

2024.02.07 Aiyuk Targets

Aiyuk saw the most targets on intermediate throws (10-19 air yards) with 55, which represented nearly half (47.8%) of his total targets. Most of those were over the middle of the field, and those 31 targets in the intermediate area between the hashes represented 26.9% of his total targets. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence based on volume, but that area also happened to be the only area where Aiyuk’s targets were intercepted, and that happened three times.

While he worked most often on medium range throws, he was most effective on deep passes, as we discussed a bit earlier. Aiyuk caught four of his seven touchdowns on deep passes and had a nearly perfect 145.8 passer rating when targeted in that area.

It’s also worth noting that despite Aiyuk’s prowess with the ball in his hands, the 49ers did not look to get him involved on any passes behind the line of scrimmage. They relied more on Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Christian McCaffrey for those types of plays.

Deebo Samuel Targets

This chart from PFF shows Samuel’s catches and targets at different areas of the field.

2024.02.07 Deebo Targets

The 49ers love to get the ball into Samuel’s hands quickly and let him use his elite run-after-catch ability to make plays. That is why 69 of his 98 targets (70.4%) were within 9 yards or fewer from the line of scrimmage, including a team-high 27 targets behind the line (tied with McCaffrey).

Samuel’s prowess with the ball in his hands was evident in his 10.5 yards per catch average on targets behind the line of scrimmage. He gained all those yards after the catch but still had a nearly identical yards-per-catch average as his 11.5 mark on short passes (0-9 yards).

When you consider his -3.2 average depth of target on targets behind the LOS and his 5.1 ADOT on short passes, those numbers look even more impressive. He averaged a whopping 13.8 YAC per reception when he caught the ball behind the line, which was by far his best average at any depth of target.

While Samuel was not a prolific deep threat, he was very effective when Brock Purdy threw him the ball deep. He only had 8 targets and 5 catches, but he converted two of those for touchdowns. He had his best passer rating when targeted on deep passes at 145.8, albeit on a limited sample size.

Noah hails from Philadelphia and is a diehard Philly sports fan. He graduated from Penn where he was a sports writer and editor for the student newspaper and also spent a summer covering the Baltimore Orioles for MLB.com. He has been playing fantasy sports since before live stats were a thing, and he has enjoyed learning the nuances of DFS in recent years. As a current resident of Florida, he is hoping the wave of sports betting legalization will eventually reach his home state.

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