Editor’s Note: The season is just beginning for DLF! We continue our 2019 Early Look series today as the new year really puts our rookie coverage into high gear. Enjoy all we have to offer in the upcoming months and thanks to all of you for making DLF the world’s number one dynasty fantasy football site.
Missing almost two whole years of his college career because of injury; a lot of Deebo Samuel‘s dynasty value rides on draft position and landing spot. If teams are able to see enough in his tape from his second and final season to give him an opportunity, he has some potential. Will they? It’s more than possible given his versatility. He was the lead receiver for both of his healthy years, showed up in the rushing game, and performed on special teams.
There’s a lot for an NFL team to like. But he’s also in a deep class, at a deep position.
As a Recruit
Coming out of Chapman high school, Tyshun “Deebo” Samuel was a three-star prospect with a 0.85 (rounded) composite score according to 247sports.com. That ranks him 838th as a national prospect. He finished with 2,751 receiving yards and 36 receiving touchdowns as well as 133 carries for 898 yards and 13 more touchdowns. It was enough for him to be awarded the High School Sports Report Class AA Offensive Player of the Year award in his senior season.
After high school, he committed to – and played all four years with – the University of South Carolina. Born on January 15, 1996, he was a 19-year-old freshman in 2015 (on August 1).
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In his first season, Samuel started five total games. The season was marred immediately with a hamstring injury in the season opener. His 161 receiving yards still accounted for only 6.5% of his team’s yards. While we can’t penalize him for injury, it’s a shame we can’t see what he would have done without the benefit of a year of growth and experience on the team, which I find to be one of the best indicators of raw talent.
Here’s what his yardage production looks like compared to a ten-year average of for successful NFL wide receivers.
To be clear, he was also only able to play in three games in his third season, at age 21, because of injury again. More worryingly, his return at age 22 saw him drop below average. His missed time may be why he has an older, less-than-ideal, age-20 breakout age (16% hit rate in the NFL for a top-24 fantasy season). However, if we are going to excuse 50 to 75% of his college production because of injury, we’d also have to throw out his one positive season because of sample size.
Samuel’s age-20 season was the first year Bryan Edwards – another potential 2019 prospect (undeclared) – was on the team. Two years younger than Samuel at that time, Edwards finished third on the depth chart in receiving yards. When Samuel was out, at age 21, it was Edwards who took over the lead role. Edwards totaled 11 more receiving yards (marginal) and five more receptions (also marginal) then Samuel’s best season in that year. I mention all this to point out that Samuel’s sudden drop in the market share in his fourth year is likely because Edwards had established himself. In fact, Edwards finished second in yards, only 36 fewer.
I consider it positive that Samuel took back the lead role, and worrying that he was unable to separate himself significantly from the younger phenom when he did. My main concern would be that Samuel got extra work as the returning team veteran, bolstering his numbers, which still fell short, and indicating he struggles to separate himself from a higher-caliber talent. The NFL is full of higher-caliber talents.
On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore Samuel’s versatility and the edge that brings to his profile. He was a serious weapon for South Carolina. Even in his final season, he rushed eight times, and returned 23 kicks for 570 yards and a touchdown. His best rushing season came at age 20 when he rushed for an eye-popping 30% of the team’s rushing touchdowns (six).
We’ll have to wait for the NFL Combine to get the “best” athletic measurements for prospects. And in general, I don’t find them useful in and of themselves. The question isn’t how athletic a player is but how they use their athleticism to produce on a football field. As such, production is all of the signal and athletic testing offers more noise. However, there is a benefit to crossing at least minimum threshold measurements.
Samuel is listed as six-feet tall and 210 lbs, neither of which are likely to upset anyone for his potential. Nothing in his production or efficiency on the field suggests a subpar athlete and I expect him to test well enough at the Combine.
On tape, he displays an ability to make a tough catch over his shoulder, as well as an ability to beat tight coverage. His ability to track the ball also seems strong. I don’t think he will be a high aDot player in the NFL, however.
His special teams usage in both his healthy seasons should not be underrated as an athletic indicator. This also a positive benefit for NFL teams, which will likely be noted by scouts. I should also mention that there is a positive correlation to successful NFL careers for wide receivers who excel on special teams.
- Above-average production in his first healthy season
- A career 14.0 YPR in college
- The lead receiver for a passing team, whenever healthy
- Special teams ability
- Breakout age has a 16% hit rate, which is about the same as a fourth round NFL draft pick for context
- Struggled to separate himself significantly from more talented competition
- A drop in production in his final year
- Potential injury concern
There is a lot to like about the wide receiver class in 2019. As such Samuel is going to need to make an impact on NFL teams at the Combine and on tape.
The bottom line is that Deebo Samuel was a productive college receiver, and South Carolina was lucky to have him. However, he struggled to separate himself and stand out compared to past successful wide receivers in the NFL for fantasy. Given that, I think it’s unlikely he can stand out as a lead receiver in the NFL. Still, I think there is enough solid production here to think he could be a productive player for an NFL team.
Overall, a lot rides on being able to read between the lines of Samuel’s college career. I imagine opinions will vary on what the most important scenes in this story are. But, no matter what you see, remember we also need an NFL team to be on the same page, for us to have a chance at getting it right.
If a team finds enough reason to invest in him, I think he could rise to a second round pick in dynasty. But, as of yet, he is not in the first tier of rookies in 2019.
UDFA's matter | British ex-pat | Writer of things
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