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Breakout Profile: Curtis Samuel

If you’re a football fan and you haven’t been living under a rock for the past several months, chances are you’ve heard the buzz on Curtis Samuel this offseason; and for good reason.

This year, the 23-year-old is coming into his third NFL season and hopes to build on the momentum he had towards the end of the 2018 campaign. Samuel played at Ohio State from 2014 until 2016 where he rushed 172 times for 1,286 yards and 15 touchdowns...as a receiver! He was used as a gadget/hybrid player throughout his tenure at Ohio State, which unfortunately created the false narrative that Samuel could only translate into that type of role at the next level, which he quickly proved wrong.

All you need to do is watch a few seconds of Curtis Samuel's film to realize he’s an absolutely electric play-maker, especially in the open field. He runs crisp routes, is excellent when it comes to contested catches, and he finds separation with ease. His blazing 4.31 speed also doesn’t hurt and serves to put a nice bow on the entire package.

In 2018, his sophomore campaign, Samuel put up a 76.6% success rate vs. man coverage per Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception. which puts him in the 94th percentile of all players ever charted. Curtis Samuel found success in all facets of the passing game in 2018, while still showing he can get it done running the ball with 84 yards and 2 touchdowns on only 8 carries. Proving he can still be that gadget type of player when they need him to be but also a reliable, dynamic receiver, Samuel can be a player this team can lean on.

Samuel and running mate D.J. Moore are looking to become a dynamic duo in Carolina. We want to know how they will finish in fantasy relative to each other?

The Panthers selected Curtis Samuel in the early second round of the 2017 NFL draft. With high draft capital invested, they obviously believe in his skill set and should continue to give him increasing opportunities as his career progresses. His rookie year was cut short due to a left ankle injury which landed him on IR in November of that year and kept him off the field until week 5 of 2018. Upon his return, he started back slow and didn’t receive more than a 40% snap share until week 12. From then on, he was on the field for 89% of snaps through week 16, your fantasy playoffs!. Aside from two games in that stretch, he saw at least 8 targets per game and had two weeks with 11 or more. Even with his slow start, being eased back into the offense and missing three regular season games, Samuel ended the year with 65 targets, 578 yards from scrimmage, and 7 touchdowns. That was good for a WR49 finish, one spot outside of being a WR4. While that isn’t quite the successful fantasy asset you would have been excited to own but considering his injury, his performance vs. expectation and the fact that you got him essentially for free, it wasn’t a bad finish. Factor in that it was only his second season in the league, and that Wide Receivers usually take 2-3 years to acclimate to the NFL, it’s easy to see why Samuel is the definition of a breakout candidate.

Curtis Samuel is listed behind D.J. Moore on the depth chart, but he’s more of a 1B in Carolina; a la Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Moore played in all 16 games in 2018 and ended the year with only 17 more targets and 382 more yards from scrimmage than Samuel, even though Samuel didn’t play a single snap until after the week 4 bye. Moore also only had 2 touchdowns on the season compared to Samuel’s 7 and ended the year with only 21 more fantasy points, despite playing three more games. Curtis Samuel also put up more fantasy points than Moore in seven of the thirteen games that they were on the field together last.

When you take a glance at ADP you can really see where the value lies in drafts this season. D.J. Moore is currently being drafted at the end of the fifth round, right around guys like Tyler Lockett, Chris Carson, and O.J. Howard. Curtis Samuel on the other hand, is being drafted almost five rounds later at 109 overall. Going near the likes of Emmanuel Sanders, Keke Coutee, and Jerick McKinnon. Even with the growing hype surrounding his name this offseason, Samuel could be one of the best bargains in the draft as a 4th receiver on your roster with WR2 upside as an ascending talent. D.J. Moore could potentially have the higher ceiling but there’s not much value to be had with him going so early in drafts. Samuel, however, is being drafted at his absolute floor and could return massive dividends to your fantasy teams this year if you make sure to scoop him up late. Buy into the Samuel hype now, it’s going to be the last time you’ll get him as a bargain.

- Kyle Johnston