Fantasy Football Report Card: Deebo Samuel
49ers WR Deebo Samuel has slowly become one of my favorite NFL players. I loved his rookie production this past season, but I became even more obsessed with him as I started researching for this article. I think we’ll be talking about Deebo Samuel as a top-12 receiver within the next couple of years.
Samuel had a productive rookie season, which included significant playoff experience and a trip to the Superbowl. Samuel was drafted by the 49ers early in the 2nd round of the 2019 NFL draft. He had a productive rookie season, which included Deebo is a gritty player who plays like a man’s man on the field, as the 49ers staff so eloquently put it. His toughness is demonstrated by his yards after the catch, which is one indicator of a player’s offensive value compared to an average wide receiver. On average, Deebo gained an additional 8.5 yards after catching the ball this season (ranked #2 among all players). Check out some of Deebo’s highlights from 2019, below:
— John Chapman (@JL_Chapman) March 29, 2020
That’s great and all, but how was Deebo for fantasy in 2019?
He finished as the fantasy WR36 in 2019. But as we all know, a player’s fantasy finish doesn’t always tell the full story. Keep in mind that rookie wide receivers are rarely every week fantasy starters, and they typically breakout around their third year. Let’s grade Deebo Samuel’s performance in 2019…
The Good from 2019
- Deebo has the 2nd most all-time receiving yards by a 49ers rookie. Number one is Jerry Rice.
- He is effective in trick plays and he can run the ball. He is the first WR to have three or more rushing touchdowns in a season since 2016 (Tyreek Hill & Ty Montgomery). He also led wide receivers in rushing yards this season.
- He finished thirteenth in red zone receptions (9).
- He finished eight in catch rate (70.4%).
- Deebo finished fifth among WR in total yards after the catch (473) this season despite only receiving 81 targets (50th among WR).
- He had at least 89 total yards or a touchdown in nine of his final 11 games (including the playoffs).
- Deebo was a valuable fantasy asset at the end of the season. He finished as a top-26 WR seven times from Weeks 10 to 17.
The Bad from 2019
- Deebo had limited opportunities due to the 49ers’ preference to run instead of pass. The 49ers had the fourth-fewest pass attempts in 2019. Jimmy G threw the ball deep (>20 yds) the least by any QB. Two players on the 49ers team had more targets than Deebo: George Kittle and Emmanuel Sanders. Also, the 49ers RB (combined) saw the same number of targets as Deebo (81).
- Deebo hasn’t caught a touchdown pass in his last seven NFL games (including the NFL playoffs).
- He put up a dud (4.2 pts) in the semifinals of the fantasy playoffs (Week 15), which may have robbed fantasy owners from a trip to the championship.
- As far as rookie wide receivers go… There were four who finished with more fantasy points than Deebo: A.J. Brown (171 pts), McLaurin (163), D.K. Metcalf (141), & Darius Slayton (139). Sidenote: The 2019 rookie wide receiver class actually seems pretty special, especially when you consider other WR with potential like N’Keal Harry, Marquise Brown, Mecole Hardman, Parris Campbell, etc.
|Week||Opponent||Receptions||Targets||Rec Yards||Rec TD||Rush Att||Rush Yds||Rush TD||Fantasy Points|
2019 Final Grade: B+
Deebo Samuel came on strong at the end of the 2019 fantasy season. He was likely a waiver wire pickup that helped owners make a playoff push. Furthermore, he deserves some type of credit for rewarding savvy owners who stashed Deebo because of his real-life talent and draft pedigree. In other words, his fantasy production was not just dumb luck like Jamison Crowder’s monster 24 point game in Week 15 (#SorryNotSorry). It’s always nice to see intelligent strategies rewarded in fantasy football.
Deebo deserves a B+ in fantasy because he cost nothing and you probably didn’t need to rely on him, but he was a valuable and consistent fantasy player during the second half of the season. He doesn’t deserve an ‘A’ because he was not a league winner and he hurt fantasy owners in the semifinals. However, Deebo exceeded expectations and was just a beast of a human being on the football field.
Deebo is a star in the making. He also has a tremendous opportunity in front of him on the 49ers. Great coach? Check. Good offense? Check. Draft capital? Check. Talent? Check. Trust from the coaching staff and owner? Check. Number one receiver on his team? Check (yea I know about Kittle, just let me have this).
I project Deebo Samuel to be a fantasy WR2 in 2020 for the reasons listed above. I think his ceiling is a back-end WR1 in 2020. Remember that opportunity is king in fantasy football. And it doesn’t hurt when you have talent and toughness to back it up. The biggest challenge for Deebo will be getting opportunities in a limited passing offense. However, he should take a step forward and now enters the role of alpha WR. With Emmanuel Sanders leaving this offseason, there will be 97 vacated targets. Deebo should see a significant uptick in targets in 2020. Note that Deebo will have new competition this season, as the 49ers drafted WR Brandon Aiyuk in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft (…but again, rookie receivers are unproven and rarely productive).