While the wide receiver mark has been one of the slowest opening markets this free agency, one of the more coveted wideouts from this group of free agents finally joined a new roster.
Curtis Samuel is signing with Washington, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 17, 2021
Curtis Samuel Career Receiving Stats
Samuel was a contract-year riser in 2020. After a disappointing 2019 season where he was typecast as a vertical threat, Samuel turned in a 77-851-3 on 97 targets, setting career-highs in receptions and yardage receiving per game.
After a slow opening four games of 2020 (14-147-0 receiving) on 13.4% of the team targets, Samuel then found his stride. Over his final 11 games played, Samuel received 20.7% of the Carolina targets, averaging 5.7 catches for 64.0 yards per game, with five or more receptions in eight of those 11 games. That included a 5-106-0 receiving game in Washington in Week 16 in which Samuel also added 52 yards rushing.
A big shift for Samuel in 2020 was reverting back to playing a role near the line of scrimmage and utilizing his dual-usage ability showcased as a prospect when he was drafted in the second round in 2017.
Curtis Samuel Career Rushing Stats
Tacking on 41 rushing attempts for 200 yards and two scores, Samuel’s 118 touches were bested by only Stefon Diggs among wideouts.
By signing with Washington, Samuel rejoins Ron Rivera and Scott Turner, who both were attached to that 2019 season in which Samuel seemed miscast in overall usage.
In 2019, Samuel got the volume spike we were looking for (105 targets), but his year three take-off was grounded by just 59.2% of those targets deemed catchable, the lowest rate of any receiver with 100 “opportunities” on the 2019 season. It was not solely that Samuel was miscast. His quarterback play was brutal paired for the role he was cast in as the Carolina triumvirate of Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, and Will Grier combined to connect on just 35-of-120 passes (29.2%) on throws over 15 yards downfield and subsequently were 9-of-38 (23.7%) targeting Samuel on those passes. The league rate of those targets was at 41.4% in 2019.
Over the past five years, Ryan Fitzpatrick is ninth in the league in completions over 15 yards downfield while completing 43.7% of his throws on those attempts over that span. In 2020, Fitzpatrick completed 58.1% of his passes over 15 yards downfield, which ranked fourth in the league. Even if Samuel is used in a similar fashion that Turner used him in 2019, his offensive climate and quarterback play is objectively better.
But we should not anticipate Samuel solely reverts to that role with Terry McLaurin already in place as a do-it-all lead wideout, which Carolina had yet to have established on the roster in 2019. What is imperative is that Washington and Turner take notes from how they used Samuel in 2019 and how Carolina did a year ago and merge both.
Carolina would be wise to use Samuel in more of a capacity as last season blended with those deep shots from Fitzpatrick. On third downs, Samuel ranked tied for fourth in the league in receptions (28) and 13th in first down conversions (18) on those catches. 51.4% of Samuel’s third down targets resulted in a first down while the league rate was 42.6%. Washington was at 32.2% as a team in converting third down passing plays for first downs, which ranked 28th in the NFL.
For fantasy, Samuel has improved every season, closing last year as WR27 in PPR points per game (14.1). Samuel’s main bugaboo in limiting his fantasy ceiling is that he has yet to score more than seven touchdowns in any season. Inside of the 10-yard line, Samuel has converted 5-of-16 career targets in that area of the field for scores. It is just not who he is as a player.
That lack of touchdown upside has limited his weekly fantasy viability. In 53 career games, Samuel has turned in just five WR1 scoring weeks with 16 as a top-24 scorer and 29 outside of the top-40. In his best season a year ago, Samuel had three of those WR1 scoring weeks with seven top-24 weeks, but also six weeks outside of the top-40.
Even with the improvement yearly and the potential Samuel has provided, he is still more of a WR2/3 option for fantasy purposes on a weekly basis with an elevation in full PPR formats big picture.