Samuel should have a huge role in an improved offense, and his fantasy potential is higher than ever
Curtis Samuel excited Buckeye fans while at Ohio State, but always seemed to be a man without a position — or maybe he had too many positions. Let’s just say he was a weapon for Urban Meyer. His game-saving touchdown against TTUN (obviously posting below!) will be remembered for many years to come, and he ultimately became one of the best players on a very loaded team. He developed into a legitimate NFL prospect, but teams had questions about his fit, due to him playing a hybrid role at OSU.
As a running back, Samuel only accumulated 172 carries in three college seasons. As a wide receiver, he had a somewhat limited route tree and a tendency to catch passes with his body. Questions regarding his receiving skills were predictable, as he was a running back in high school and only practiced with the receivers in college part-time. Legitimate or not, concerns over Samuel’s positional fit were not going to push him down draft boards very far.
He averaged 7.5 yards per carry for the Buckeyes, and put up 74/865/7 as a part-time receiver during his junior year… you find a place on your offense for guys like that. The Carolina Panthers selected Samuel in the second round (40th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft, and while it has taken him a few seasons to find a steady role, he finally seems ready to approach his ceiling. He is primarily used as a receiver, but teams have figured out that he can also be successful playing multiple positions at the next level. If it ain’t broke… His new role — on a new team — pairs him with a former Ohio State teammate, and his fantasy football potential is as high as it’s ever been.
After four seasons in Carolina, Samuel signed with the Washington Football Team as a free agent during the offseason. He is reunited with his “Zone 6” brother Terry McLaurin, and should slide right into Washington’s starting lineup. The team was missing a secondary receiver last season, and struggled with inconsistent quarterback play.
They have since brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who likes to push the ball downfield, and they will have a healthy McLaurin after he dealt with multiple high ankle sprains in 2020. Antonio Gibson is a potential star at running back, and the addition of Samuel could push this offense over the top. Samuel’s fantasy upside playing next to McLaurin, and as part of a significantly improved offense, should be favorable.
When healthy and given opportunities in the NFL, the former Buckeye all-purpose weapon has flashed big-play ability (just like he did in Columbus). During his second season in 2018, Samuel’s 47 touches from scrimmage resulted in seven touchdowns: five receiving, two on the ground.
As a full-time starter in 2019, Samuel had nearly 800 total yards. His output should have been much higher, but he finished with a 51% catch rate (receptions/targets). That is almost hard to do when seeing real volume. However, the Panthers started Kyle Allen at quarterback for most of the year, and that is just about all the explanation needed.
Samuel was not without blame, as he continued to develop as a wide receiver, but he actually led the team in receiving touchdowns. More importantly, Carolina and its coaching staff were finally willing to think outside the box regarding Samuel’s usage. He was given 19 carries in 2019; more than he had during his first two seasons combined. The threat of him being used out of the backfield became a wrinkle that the team could use to its advantage, and it would utilize even more in 2020.
Samuel racked up 41 carries last season, making him a legitimate dual-threat player. Christian McCaffery was injured early in the season, and the Panthers were forced to turn elsewhere at running back. It is easy to say that Samuel was given 41 carries out of desperation, but his team did not shy away from using CMC’s backup either.
Mike Davis totaled 224 touches once the all-world RB went down, so it is not as if Samuel took touches away from the backfield. Instead, it seems as if the coaching staff in Carolina saw a player that could be a threat from all over the field and decided to get the ball in his hands any way that they could.
Samuel’s breakout was aided by his rushing ability, but he also became a much better receiver. His catch percentage increased nearly 30 percent, to 79.4%. While I highly doubt he will match it in 2021, Samuel finally played with an accurate passer. He spent the first four years of his career with Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, and a few others sprinkled in. Teddy Bridgewater took over in 2020, and while he may not have a howitzer attached to his right shoulder, Bridgewater is more accurate than those previously mentioned QBs. If Samuel comes down with 65% of the balls thrown his way in Washington, he’s going to be fine — and a productive fantasy player.
After a career year in which he racked up over 1,000 totals yards (in only five starts), Samuel could end up as a top-20 wide receiver this season. That might sound crazy, but he sneakily finished inside the top-25 of PPR leagues last year!
His stats were boosted by 200 yards on the ground, but there is no reason for the Washington Football Team not to use him in the same way(s). Scott Turner was previously the offensive coordinator in Carolina, and he now holds the same position in Washington. He has coached Samuel before, and knows his skillset.
The WFT also lacks depth at running back, so they could use the former Buckeye to spell Antonio Gibson. Lastly, Samuel was paid big bucks to come in and not only be a contributor, but to make a difference.
As long as his current groin issue does not linger, Samuel will be on the field for nearly every snap. Due to his versatile skillset, he is essentially gameplan-proof. Not to say he will excel each and every time out there, but he is a chess piece to move around and attack defenses in various ways.
I have seen Samuel drafted all over the place: as early as the fourth round, as late as the eighth or ninth. That being said, I like him toward the high end of that range. Rounds 4-6 are the sweet spot. When eyeing him in your draft, consider these names: D.J. Moore, Cooper Kupp, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Jarvis Landry.
Samuel finished ahead of all of them 2020. Target him in those middle rounds, and if you are a total homer like myself, try to pair him with McLaurin. Scary Samuel… McCurtis… The team names are right there!