The Gut Check No.524: Is This Finally the Curtis Samuel Breakout?

Matt Waldman examines the past three weeks of Curtis Samuel's tape and gives his verdict on Samuel's fantasy potential for the stretch run of the 2020 season. 

Curtis Samuel Has Been A Tease

Eye rolls.

It's what I did every time a read a tweet or an article touting Curtis Samuel as the next big thing in fantasy football. Thanks to the number of times I saw buzz for Samuel, I strengthened my eye muscles, and now, I'm glasses-free.

Not really.

There's no doubt that Samuel is a talented football player, and the emphasis should be placed on "football player," as opposed to "wide receiver." Carolina has used Samuel similar to his tenure as an Ohio State Buckeye: An offensive skill athlete.

Jet sweeps, option pitches, screen passes, RPOs, crossing routes, and the occasional deep target were all installed to leverage Samuel's athletic ability. However, I wasn't seeing an elevation with his play that put him on track to become the next Randall Cobb, a player I compared to Samuel before the NFL Draft.

When I watched Samuel run hard-breaking routes with the Panthers, he wasn't executing at a high level. Forget the training camp buzz about getting open in the vertical game all summer and making incredible catches. There are practice squad receivers who do this every August.

If a receiver isn't consistent when it counts or versatile enough as an outside receiver to transcend the gadget label, his fantasy value becomes increasingly more dependent on surrounding talent--his teammates or sub-par competition.

Last year, Samuel was the No.36 receiver in PPR formats. His best games, by far, were his two against Tampa Bay, Arizona, Tennessee, Washington, and Seattle.

Here's where these teams ranked in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers in 2019 (the higher the number, the worse the defense):

  • Tampa Bay: 1st
  • Seattle: 18th
  • Arizona: 12th
  • Washington: 11th

And Seattle gave up fewer fantasy points to wide receivers last year because its defense allowed the 7th most fantasy points to the opposing running backs.

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