2019 NFL Draft Preview: Deebo Samuel – WR, South Carolina
The wide receiver class in the 2019 NFL Draft isn’t especially star-studded. There’s no prospect at the position that screams “can’t-miss superstar,” nor is there a wideout likely to be taken in the top-five ala Corey Davis two years ago.
However, while the Class of 2019 at wide receiver may not be especially top-heavy, it is rather deep—there are a number of Day 2 pass-catchers who could make an early impact both in the National Football League and fantasy football.
One of those Day 2 wideouts who tore up January’s Senior Bowl in Mobile Alabama was South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com was one of many draftniks who came away from Samuel’s practices in Alabama impressed.
“He was fantastic all week,” Zierlein said, via Ben Breiner of the State. “He’s physical, well put together and runs good routes. Receivers get grabbed a ton out here at Senior Bowl practices. The corners are really grabby — things that are going to be penalties at the next level. Not only did he play through it, but a lot of times he worked himself wide open through his physicality inside the route and route acumen. He was smart in terms of how he got out of his brakes, and he caught everything that was thrown his way. I talked to a couple of teams that were really excited about what he did in the first two days here and there’s no way they’re not going to like what they saw today.”
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Deebo Samuel is the Most NFL-Ready Wide Receiver in This Draft Class
SB Nation’s Bernd Buchmasser thinks that the 5’11”, 241-pound Samuel, who caught 62 passes for 882 yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago, might just be the best route-runner of any wideout in this year’s draft.
“If you are looking for a polished route runner in this year’s draft, look no further than Deebo Samuel,” he wrote. “The 23-year-old is terrific in this part of his game, as his short-area quickness and acceleration allow him to run a precise and complete route tree no matter the coverage he faces. He also knows how to sell different patterns to create separation. This in combination with a high football IQ and tremendous play recognition skills could help him build a quick rapport with a quarterback like Tom Brady.”
Gavino Borquez of Draft Wire doesn’t see any major flaws in Samuel’s game, outside of a recent history of injuries. “Samuel’s a great overall wide receiver with hardly any extreme flaws aside from durability concerns,” Borquez said. “He has good acceleration and long speed to beat the defense deep with good ball tracking ability. Samuel has great hands, but the best part of his game is what he does with the ball after he catches it. His run after catch the ability is high quality as he uses elusive moves to break defenders and make them miss.”
Brad Kelly of the Draft Network, on the other hand, allowed that Samuel’s lack of elite size or straight-line speed may make it difficult to win consistently on the boundary as a true No. 1 wide receiver. As a No. 2 though? The sky’s the limit.
“While Samuel showed success generating separation in a full route tree, his quarterback play failed to consistently target him down the field,” Kelly said. “A strong amount of his production came on fly sweep plays, and he’ll need to prove consistency with finishing. Samuel is one of the most refined receivers in the NFL Draft, as he has few weaknesses on film. With explosiveness and consistent technique as a route runner, he creates throwing windows. There are next to no concerns with Samuel’s film, which gives him a noticeably high floor. He’ll be entering the league at 23 years old, and won’t necessarily be a burner in the 40-yard dash. While this limits his high-end ceiling, Samuel projects as one of the best WR2’s in the league.”
Mike Tagliere of Fantasy Pros sees a combination between a pair of long-time PPR stalwarts when he watches game tape of Samuel. “While watching Samuel, I can’t help but think of a mix between Jarvis Landry and Golden Tate,” Tagliere said. “He doesn’t have the stop-and-go ability of Tate but offers more after the catch than Landry. Both players have obviously had a great deal of success in the NFL, but their best work has come from inside the slot. It would be a mistake for a team to draft Samuel and think he can play on the perimeter more than 30 percent of the time, as it’s just not who he is. He’s a smart player who’ll get you some yardage after the catch and allow you to run some trickery out of the backfield.”
Per the State’s Josh Kendall, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper believes there’s very little chance that Samuel makes it out of the second round—and it’s not out of the realm of reason that a playoff team from a year ago takes Samuel late on the draft’s first day.
“He’s right in the mix to be a solid early to mid-second rounder,” Kiper said. “I wouldn’t count out late one. He’s got great versatility; he’s got great explosiveness. I would say he doesn’t get past, at worst, the end of the second round.”
To be fair, Samuel didn’t exactly light up the stat sheet in Columbia. He’s not especially fast. Or especially big. He’s not a physical freak ala DK Metcalf of Ole Miss. And as such, he may be a fair bit closer to his fantasy ceiling than some of the other pass-catchers in this crop.
But his floor. Oh man…his floor.
In dominating some of the best cornerbacks in this draft class at the Senior Bowl, Samuel hammered home the fact that he’s the most NFL-ready receiver in this class. He’s a polished route-runner with excellent technique and impressive physicality. And as his 4.48-second 40 time at the combine demonstrates, Samuel isn’t exactly running in mud either.
Yes, Samuel might not have the highest long-term fantasy ceiling of any wide receiver in this class. But if he lands in anything resembling a favorable situation to begin his NFL career, he has a real chance of making a significant statistical dent from Day 1—especially in PPR formats.
As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t be any kind of huge upset if Samuel leads all rookie wideouts in PPR fantasy points in 2019.
If you’re a redraft owner looking for an upside WR4, a team in search of a third starter or flex in dynasty startups, or a dynasty playoff squad in search of instant impact late in the first round of rookie drafts, you could do a lot worse than the Senior Bowl’s biggest standout.
And depending on his landing spot, he may slot quite a bit higher than that.
A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary Davenport has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications, including the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an eight-time FSWA Award finalist and two-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization’s Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last three years. He won the honor in 2017. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. He knows football. Or so he’s heard.
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