Fantasy Reaction: Curtis Samuel Signs with the Washington Football Team
Ever since being drafted by the Carolina Panthers back in 2017, Curtis Samuel has been in the shadows of Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, Devin Funchess, and most recently, Robby Anderson. In 2021, we might finally see Samuel unleashed as he has recently committed to the Washington Football Team on a 3-year, $34.5 million dollar contract. Let’s dive into the fantasy implications of this signing, and what to expect from Samuel this upcoming season and beyond!
A Quiet Breakout Season
Fantasy Finish (PPR/G)
In his four-year career, Curtis Samuel has improved every single season, culminating in a productive 2020 campaign. However, despite his improved year, his weekly upside was capped due to the number of receivers he had to compete with. At times, Samuel would even be 4th in the pecking order for opportunities, playing behind Moore, Anderson, and even Mike Davis. The Carolina receivers were so productive that the Panthers were one of only two teams to have three WRs finish in the top-30 in PPR points per game. As a result, Samuel never truly separated himself from his fellow teammates.
What did set Samuel apart from Moore and Anderson was his versatility and usage in the offense. Despite only ranking 3rd among all Panthers receivers in target share with 19%, Samuel was actually the WR10 in the league in total team opportunity share with 16%. How is that possible? Samuel accounted for 11% of the team’s rushing attempts along with his receiving work, leading to a career-high in PPR points (14.1) and opportunities (9.2) per game. So while his year was slightly overshadowed by the overall success of the Panther’s receiving corps, we should not overlook the fact that Samuel just had the best season of his young career.
A Fresh Start in Washington
In 2021, we will hopefully get to see Samuel step into a more featured role for an NFL offense. While it might seem like a lateral move from Carolina, Ryan Fitzpatrick should present an upgrade for Samuel. In fact, according to Next Gen Stats, Fitzpatrick had a higher completion percentage over expected (+3.5 % pts), completed air yards per attempt (7.9), and QB rating (95.6) than Teddy Bridgewater in 2020. It should also not come as a surprise that Fitzpatrick will be a significant improvement for this offense from both Alex Smith and Dwayne Haskins. And while Washington already ranked 9th in passing attempts per game (37.5), leaving little room for added volume, I expect this offense to be more efficient with Fitzpatrick at the helm.
From an opportunity standpoint, considering the contract that he received, Samuel should be one of the primary targets in this offense. However, to put his 2020 production into perspective, Samuel’s 9.2 opportunities per game would have led all Washington receivers last season. So if we expect Samuel to exceed 100 opportunities once again, it will have to come at the expense of either Logan Thomas, J.D. McKissic, Steven Sims, or Cam Sims. Interestingly, outside of Thomas, none of those receivers have a significant dead cap for the 2021 season (less than one million each). As a result, do not be surprised if Washington decides to move on from one or two of those receivers later this off-season, especially with Samuel set to take on a significant role.
Dynasty Outlook: 2021 & Beyond
For the 2021 season, I expect Samuel to be a serviceable flex WR with WR2 upside, assuming he can carve out a significant target share in this offense. And with Fitzpatrick’s tendency to throw further downfield, Samuel’s efficiency should improve even if his average opportunities do decline. With his versatility, do not be surprised if he is also utilized in the rushing game, which could once again provide a boost to his fantasy floor.
As for his dynasty stock, that should continue to improve as the off-season progresses. Going forward, Samuel is now tied to a young, improving offense. And while the team has their offensive core locked in for the next two years with Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson, question marks still remain at the Quarterback position. Fitzpatrick will likely be the bridge QB for at least one season, but it would significantly improve Samuel’s stock if the team is able to add a QB in this year’s draft. Regardless, dynasty managers should feel encouraged about this signing as it should only improve Samuel’s value from here on out.