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2017 NFL Draft Reaction: Curtis Samuel Goes to the Carolina Panthers

Curtis Samuel was drafted 40th overall by the Carolina Panthers and will catch passes from Cam Newton. An offensive weapon in the mold of Tyreek Hill, Samuel should add an explosive element to the Panthers offense.

With the addition of Christian McCaffrey in the first round, it’s clear the Panthers are changing their offensive philosophy. At a minimum, Samuel looks to fill a deep threat role with both Corey Brown and Ted Ginn moving on in free agency. His speed along with his ability to run the ball will surely cause mismatches for a Carolina team in need of playmakers. The health and history of Cam Newton will play an important role in the success of Samuel in his rookie year.

I’ll get more into the Panthers below, but here is the profile of the player they just added.

Curtis Samuel, The Ohio State, 5-11, 196

FINAL AGE: 20.7   VERT: 37   CONE: 7.09

RAW AND MARKET SHARE COLLEGE PRODUCTION

Year Rec Yds Avg TD msYD msTD
2013 11 95 8.6 6* 0.06 0.04
2014 22 289 13.1 3* 0.26* 0.40*
2016 74 865 11.7 15* 0.32 0.36
Career 107 1249 11.7 24* 0.21 0.27

The asterisks alongside next to Samuel’s touchdown numbers combine his rushing and receiving totals which denote an interesting part of his unique profile. While projecting as a WR in the NFL, Samuel spent two years backing up Ezekiel Elliott at RB before taking over in 2016. In 2017 Samuel was the only player in all of college football to eclipse over 700 yards both rushing and receiving. Playing for Urban Meyer and being used the way he was has brought on obvious comparisons to Percy Harvin. With 4.31 speed it’s understandable why Ohio State made Samuel the focal point of their offense.

Let’s look at his comps using the Box Score Scout.

Samuel

Right off the bat the Box Score Scout flashes the Percy Harvin comparison. Other player like Randall Cobb and Jeremy Maclin show the upside of players with the athletic profile and versatility in production. On the other hand, Tavon Austin offers a cautionary tale for Samuel if an offensive coordinator does not have a clear plan for how to use his skill set.

In our other measures, Samuel ranked 24th overall, and ninth among WRs, in our final Rotoviz Scouting Index. RotoViz analysts were a bit more bullish on him, as he came in at sixth overall in our pre-draft rookie rankings.

PLAYER OUTLOOK

Being among the younger players in the draft and masquerading as a RB in college, it was quite surprising to find Curtis Samuel with the highest score in the Phenom Index. with a score of 2.91.

In the short term, Samuel should get looks as a deep threat opposite Kelvin Benjamin. How many targets that will result in is however a question. The Panthers should ideally function by finding mismatches with the speed and size of their skill position players. The addition of Christian McCaffrey on the surface makes Samuel’s skill set seem a bit redundant. The versatility that each player possesses will definitely bring a change to the offensive look Carolina has presented over the years.

As a true playmaker, there has been much debate over the best position for Samuel in the pros. It’s interesting to note that RotoViz analyst felt better about Samuel as an RB. Samuel is a strong SPARQ athlete and runs a blazing 4.31 forty. Based upon Kevin Cole’s study of combine metrics, Samuel projects with a 0.57 percent chance to have a successful season within his first three years. That upside remains a mystery due to the landing spot and presence of McCaffrey.

Samuel will likely have to put his speed to use as a deep threat and matchup threat on the move and out of the slot. Newton has shown the ability to connect on the deep ball as he has one of the stronger arms in the NFL. The shoulder injury will however need to be monitored in Cam’s case and leave yet another question for Samuel’s production.

TEAM OUTLOOK

The offense in Carolina clearly revolves around Newton. With that offense struggling last season and Newton taking his fair share of hits, a shift in offensive philosophy looks to be in the works. The read option and play action could very well be replaced by a quick passing scheme that looks to get the ball into Samuel’s hands in space as well as deep.

Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen and Devin Funchess still offer size in an offense that has often relied on it. Samuel, as well as McCaffrey, now give a plodding offense an explosive element that will also allow them to create mismatches from both a size and speed standpoint. With 148 targets vacated by outgoing deep threats, there is more than enough volume available to be spread throughout the receiving corps.

The question of just how creative the Panthers coaching staff gets may ultimately be the deciding factor in Samuel’s upside. Additionally, with Jonathan Stewart on the wrong side of 30, Samuel could be in line for some touches out of the backfield. Unfortunately that upside is capped by the selection of McCaffrey.

The changes to the offense shouldn’t affect the opportunity of the incumbents among the receivers. It will be important to pay attention to the utilization of Samuel and how he is worked into the system. His skill set is different enough that 75 targets are not out of the question in 2017.

CONCLUSION

Throughout the draft process, Samuel was often thought of as a player that was landing-spot dependent. While Carolina may not be the worst landing spot, it certainly leaves more than a few question marks as to how Samuel will be deployed. The injuries to Newton, along with Newton’s 58 percent career passing accuracy limit some of Samuel’s appeal. While the talent is certainly there, for me Samuel’s situation pushes his draft value closer to the end of the first round of dynasty drafts.

Find all our 2017 NFL Draft reaction content here.

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