REWIND – Reviewing My Very Deep Sleeper Series from 2018 (S3, E17 Curtis Samuel)
I’m not going to rehash the argument about Curtis Samuel here. What I feel about his prospects going forward can be seen in our 2019 (and 2018) Draft Guide and Dynasty valuations/rankings.
What I will note here is the easy to overlook part of this – this is another case where our Very Deep Sleeper radar was sensing ‘gold’.
Running as a 100+ ADP WR last summer, Samuel became a point of national contention/debate in-season for his great play while the ever-baffling (that he keeps getting hired) Norv Turner didn’t start him/play him more (Samuel was a deep fantasy sleeper, as well as a deep sleeper to his own coaching staff who saw him work every day and still missed it). Eventually, Samuel forced his way to the starting lineup AGAIN in 2019 (did the same last year) and then to top WR target by the later part of the season.
That’s what we try to do with the VDS reports – find potential top 10-15 players at their position…hiding as ADP top 75-100-150+ players in the preseason. Worst case, we find useable players with the VDS for fantasy among the forgotten/overlooked – and by the 2nd-half of 2018, Samuel became a fantasy starter in most leagues.
This was the final VDS report for 2018, and a fruitful one.
Good luck to us all working through our 2019 VDS series to find new ‘gold’. Season Four renewed by FantasyPros and new reports scheduled to post each week up until season kickoff.
What I pitched around this time last year:
…but D.J. Moore, but Devin Funchess?
We’ll get to the Carolina WR depth chart in a moment, but first — why are we so quick to write off the #40 pick (Samuel) in last year’s draft?
Fantasy GMs love all rookies unconditionally in their debut preseason (OHHHH, the possibilities), and then we discard them like a used tissue about 5-10 games into their rookie season after they are shown to be mortal. One whole preseason later, we forget about most of the rookies we had a burning love and hope for with them just 12 months prior.
Why do we believe the Panthers do not like or have plans for a high second-round pick from the prior year who ran a blazing 4.31 40-time at last year’s NFL Combine? Why do we so quickly dismiss one of the true trailblazing maverick players to ever come out of college football? Samuel is the future of NFL weaponry, about five years ahead of his time (ahead of his time in the NFL because college football is always ahead of the NFL on offensive innovations).
Samuel was a true RB/WR hybrid player in college. He ran as a true tailback for Ohio State in 2016 — not running the ball as a gimmick/gadget wide receiver taking a bunch of jet sweeps but a real single-set running back taking normal carries between the tackles and anywhere else they could get him rolling. Samuel would run one entire series as the Buckeyes’ tailback, and then on the next play or the next series he’d work as a legit wide receiver – and not as a running back who would just be a cute option lined up as a flanker in five-wide sets. No, another tailback would enter the game for OSU and Samuel would move to his usual wide receiver spot and run proper routes and make tough catches and big plays all over the field. He was a top running back in the Big Ten (771 rushing yards, eight rushing TDs, 7.9 YPC in 2016 for OSU) while simultaneously being one of the top wide receivers in the conference as well (74 catches for 865 yards and seven receiving TDs).
How many other players in the NFL today can you say that about? I think none, and not any player in the NFL today who starred at both the RB and WR positions simultaneously in a major college conference. There have been guys who have been running backs moved to wide receiver for a spell or season or vice versa, but no player I can think of in recent years truly ran the dual role, performing great at both, and with the defense never knowing where he was going to line up next, other than Samuel. Such a unique player drafted highly by the Panthers — and one year later we’re all like, “Boooorrrrring!”
It’s easy to forget that Samuel started to break out as a wide receiver for the Panthers midseason last year. He began his rookie campaign slowly because he was constantly hampered with minor injury in the preseason and fell behind and looked a little lost early on. Suddenly, about midseason, you started to see Samuel “get it.”
In a Week 10 MNF game against Miami last season, Samuel was having his breakout moment — five catches for 45 yards in about a half of play. You could see he was becoming a confident, legit NFL receiver – the guy the Panthers spent a high draft pick on. In that Miami game, as he dove for a TD catch that would’ve made him the fantasy waiver wire pickup of the following week given the numbers he was accumulating, a defender landed on Samuel’s ankle funny, and he let go of the TD catch writhing in pain. He was lost for the rest of the game/season. He was having his moment and then gone too soon, allowing us all to forget he existed.
To further push Samuel off the grid, the Panthers spent a first-round draft pick on similar-sized (but thicker)/similar-role type wide receiver D.J. Moore in 2018, making it easy to assume the team did so because they’re giving up on Samuel. Perhaps, like fantasy GMs, the Panthers forgot Samuel even existed with the high draft pick of Moore.
There’s one problem with the M.I.A. report on Curtis Samuel in 2018 — someone forgot to tell Samuel he didn’t matter. All Samuel has done in the 2018 preseason is be the best Panthers wide receiver by far. It’s not even debatable; it’s not even close. I watch and re-watch every single preseason game as a means of research for my fantasy draft guide and dynasty research.
I have a jeweler’s eye when observing the preseason. I’m looking for clues. I’m looking for problems. I’m looking for breakout potential where others have failed to look. I’ve watched every single game in detail for three weeks of the 2018 preseason, and I would claim that Curtis Samuel has probably made the most significant leap from 2017 to 2018 of any wide receiver I’ve observed this season – that includes Taywan Taylor and Jake Kumerow among others.
D.J. Moore looks lost right now. That’s no slam on him because Curtis Samuel looked similar in his rookie preseason and early regular season. Moore is just not ready to be an impact starter in the NFL in Week 1. Samuel is.
What’s exciting about all this for fantasy football is that it’s not that Samuel has elevated target hopes, which would be a good thing for fantasy scoring. It’s bigger than that. Samuel has indicators of being a special big-play wideout in fantasy. He has also transformed his body over the past year, being noticeably more muscular, boasting more of the look of a tailback than a skinny, thin-framed wide receiver/punt returner type.
He’s starting to look like a legit NFL body as a wide receiver. He’s performing in the preseason like a weapon. Not a ‘useful hand,’ but a 4.31 speed running lethal weapon. He’s getting open on almost every route because he’s a technically sound receiver, but he also has high athleticism/speed, so the combination of the two allows him to work over the middle like a real receiver. However, he’s also a touchdown waiting to happen on a bubble screen because of his speed and running back experience. Also, the 4.31 speed makes him the Panthers’ best deep threat.
You get all the receiving skills, but also lurking are his skills as a runner – four carries for 64 yards (16.0 YPC) last season — every carry went for at least eight yards. Who’s going to hate a receiver who is a high draft pick, can work the middle like a real wide receiver, and is also the team’s top deep threat? Mind you, he’s also their best technical route runner, he can take jet sweep to the house, or just be a running back if needed. None of these can be said about D.J. Moore.
Not only can these be said about Samuel, but it’s playing out through in the preseason. If you have the chance to see Samuel’s work from the 2018 preseason, you should take a look, because it’s some of the best wide receiver work in the NFL over the past three weeks. He’s amassed 18.4 yards per catch this preseason, which is fifth-most receiving yards among all WRs this preseason and is tied for the most 20+ yard catches (four) this preseason among wide receivers (through three weeks).
I know teams tend to favor draft status guys that they just selected like Moore. I’m not anti-Moore. I’m pro-Samuel — potentially the best Carolina Panthers wide receiver for fantasy sitting right under our noses because we are blinded by ‘the rookie’ (Moore).
Samuel’s ADP is currently nonexistent (WR ranked #100+ among the FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings) – so, you can get him in the last/late rounds for most redrafts. You can trade for him in dynasty weeks without much given in exchange. This is your window of opportunity before the regular season begins and it reveals Samuel is not only the Panthers’ most gifted wide receiver talent, but he’s the one that fits with Cam Newton’s style the best between he, Moore, and Funchess.
If you roll your eyes at that last statement because ‘nobody else is saying it‘ – I ask you if you have watched the Panthers’ preseason in detail along with the other 31 teams in detail? If you are a ‘nobody else is saying that’ fantasy GM, then all of my clients and subscribers are praying you are in their fantasy leagues just listening to the echo chambers of what other people who are not watching all these games in detail are theorizing based on the other echoes they’ve heard. There’s no guarantee here with Samuel, that’s why the article series is called a Very Deep Sleepers. What I am saying is that for the investment, which is nothing, you’ve got potential for a sweet ROI upside out of nowhere — right here, right now.
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