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“Curtis is going to be critical to our success. I say that I wish I could have an opportunity to be out at practices and what not, and Curtis is the one I can’t wait to see him do what he does best. I think Curtis is a playmaker. He fits the mold of what we’re looking for in this type of offense. A guy that you can utilize all around the field.
“You get the ball in his hands and good things happen. I think you saw stuff last year that shows that he can be a big-play wide receiver down the field, getting the ball in space and I’m excited for him to take the next leap. And I know that he wants that.”
Samuel caught 54 passes for 627 yards and six touchdowns last season for the Panthers, whose offense largely revolved around the exploits of running back Christian McCaffrey and wideout D.J. Moore.
It’s a new day in Carolina, though, with Matt Rhule in charge and Brady as his OC. And given Brady’s comments, it appears Samuel is getting a shot at a featured role in the Panthers’ offense.
The 23-year-old’s versatility should go a long way toward accomplishing that feat: The ex-Ohio State star is a threat running the ball, as he rushed 19 times for 130 yards and a score last year. That followed eight carries for 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns the year prior.
The talent is clearly there with Samuel, who clocked a 4.31-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, per Player Profiler. It’s just that the opportunities haven’t been despite seeing a career-high 105 targets last year.
That’s in part because the Panthers’ passing game struggled sans Cam Newton, who missed all but two games with a Lisfranc injury.
Kyle Allen nobly stepped up in his place amid difficult circumstances but played behind an offensive line that allowed 46 sacks in just 13 games with him under center. In addition, Allen threw for just 6.0 adjusted yards per attempt, according to Pro Football Reference.
Of note, Samuel and Allen couldn’t connect, with the wideout facing a top-10 uncatchable ball rate, per Ian Hartitz of Pro Football Focus:
Ian Hartitz @Ihartitz
Top-10 unluckiest receivers in 2019 (PFF)
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (48% uncatchable target rate)
Breshad Perriman (48%)
Phillip Dorsett (46%)
Auden Tate (46%)
Mike Gesicki (43%)
T.J. Hockenson (42%)
Alex Erickson (42%)
Curtis Samuel (42%)
Robby Anderson (42%)
Mike Williams (41%)
The signs for success have been there for Samuel. Matt Harmon of Yahoo Sports tweeted that the former Buckeye had the 24th-highest success rate against man coverage since 2014 (76.6 percent in 2018).
Harmon also noted that Samuel’s degree of difficulty was much harder last year considering the amount of nine routes (go routes) he had to run:
Perhaps a change of scenery with Brady will give Samuel more high-probability routes (and therefore more receptions), as Harmon said he was “overused as a vertical receiver” in 2019.
Samuel should be the team’s slot wide receiver with Moore and Robby Anderson doing most of their work on the outside.
He’ll play with new Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who completed 67.9 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns and two interceptions in relief of the injured Drew Brees last year for the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans won all five of Bridgewater’s starts.
Samuel could be a steal in fantasy leagues for those looking for a deep sleeper: He’s ranked as the 58th wideout in FantasyPros‘ latest aggregate expert rankings and 145th overall for point-per-reception leagues. Barring some late offseason hype, Samuel should be available late in 10- and 12-team drafts.