A slow-moving wide receiver market ramped up a little on Wednesday, as Curtis Samuel signed a three-year, $34.5 million deal ($24.5 million guaranteed) with the Washington Football Team. Samuel will reunite with Ron Rivera, the Panthers’ head coach for his first three NFL seasons.
Samuel had the best season of his career last year, with 77 catches and 1,051 yards from scrimmage. He got increased usage as a runner with Christian McCaffrey out (41 carries for 200 yards), but production is production and Samuel is a legit weapon.
Samuel will now form a nice wide receiver with Terry McLaurin in Washington, and new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick could unlock a new level for both.
Focusing on Curtis Samuel, here are three far too early bold predictions for him in 2021.
3. A Least 120 Targets
Samuel had 105 often misfired targets in 2019, followed by 97 targets in 15 games last year. So setting a career-high next season with Washington isn’t a huge stretch. Giving him one more target per game than 2020 would put him close to 120 over 16 games. So I’ll set the bar at 120 targets.
2. Double-Digit Total Touchdowns
Samuel had seven total touchdowns in 2018 and 2019, then five total touchdowns (three receiving, two rushing) last year. All seven of his scores came in the red zone in 2019, with four of his six receiving scores inside the 10-yard line, despite below suboptimal quarterback play. He had at least a 20 percent red zone target share in each of the last two seasons with Carolina. The double-digit mark could easily just be receiving touchdowns, but I’ll hedge just a bit and say at least 10 receiving and rushing scores for Samuel in 2021.
1. At Least 90 Catches, At Least 1,000 Receiving Yards
As mentioned, Samuel’s career-high marks for catches and yards are 77 and 851 respectively, from last year. Let’s use my 120 target projection as a broad baseline. Using last year’s 8.8 yards per target in Carolina last year, which will go up if Fitzpatrick sticks as Washington’s quarterback, that’s over 1,000 receiving yards.
Last year’s 79.4 percent catch rate for Samuel will probably drop a bit next season, but maybe not a lot. Let’s go with 70 percent–130 targets at a 70 percent catch rate would put Samuel at 91 receptions for the season.
At a glance, 1,000 yards feels more likely than 90 catches for Samuel in 2021. But it’s only 13 more catches than 2020 for him, and as Washington’s clear No. 2 wide receiver that might be an easy mark too. Hence “at least” for his double-up.