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This Cheap, Young Vet With Locked-In Targets Is a Dead Ringer for Parris Campbell and Mecole Hardman

Mecole Hardman and Parris Campbell were cult favorites heading into the 2019 NFL draft. But when they landed in the second round to Kansas City and Indianapolis, the fantasy community truly fell in love. The two speedsters were suddenly set to spend their careers lassoing lasers from Patrick Mahomes and Andrew Luck.

For most of the summer they stayed well ahead of Andy Isabella and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, two more productive receivers drafted within the same handful of picks. It was not until the exoneration of Tyreek Hill that Hardman dipped below the others.

Why do I bring up these two dynasty heartthrobs as we head into the heart of redraft seasons?

In following the early training camp buzz and playing with the Box Score Scout, it’s obvious that a better version of Hardman and Campbell is ready to explode in redraft. And you can still get him at a discount.

A Supercharged Veteran Version of Hardman and Campbell

If early camp buzz is to be believed,1 Curtis Samuel may be the hottest player in the entire league, a virtual guaranteed breakout in the offing.

Since Samuel is someone I own on virtually all of my dynasty teams, this catches my eye. We were very high on Samuel coming out of college, but I wanted to see what the new Box Score Scout thought of him as a prospect.

Samuel has the blazing speed we all find so tantalizing in Campbell and Hardman. He doesn’t have the world class jets of a Tyreek Hill, but he compares favorably to guys like Desean Jackson and Will Fuller, players whose blistering speed allows them to post big fantasy numbers even on limited targets.

Of course, wide receiver is a skill position. Fuller was a much more productive college player than Samuel, and the computer pulls Campbell, Hardman, and Phillip Dorsett as the top matches due to similarly poor career market share numbers. The difference between their results and the fourth comp, superstar Odell Beckham, is glaring. Fortunately for Samuel, he has an explanation.

The Ohio State product was a hybrid RB/WR who accumulated more collegiate yards in the running game. During his junior season he gained 1,636 yards from scrimmage and scored 15 combined TDs. That gave him a 31% score in total adjusted yardage share. By contrast, Campbell only gained 15% of the total adjusted yards during his final season in the Buckeyes offense. Due to this dual threat ability, our top production/athleticism comps for Samuel coming out of college were Percy Harvin and Randall Cobb.

Samuel was also a young prospect who declared early. Even when we account for draft position, this plays a crucial role. According to Volume 53 of the Wrong Read:

In every single round, WRs who declared early outperform their senior peers, even those drafted a round earlier. In fact, underclassmen drafted in the fifth and sixth rounds outperform seniors drafted two rounds earlier.

Due to this combination of production and youth, Samuel was No. 1 in the 2017 WR Phenom Index. No. 2 just happened to be JuJu Smith-Schuster.

A Third-Year Breakout Star?

Okay, that explains why I had such heavy ownership coming out of the draft two years ago, but what about those first two seasons?

Samuel’s injury luck hasn’t been the best. A hamstring strain limited his rookie training camp, and he got off to a slow start in 2017. Then, just when he was starting to earn some targets in Weeks 9 and 10, the rookie suffered a broken ankle with ligament damage. After rehabbing those injuries in the offseason, he missed the first three games of 2018 with an irregular heartbeat.

Once Samuel finally got on the field in Week 5, he almost matched their first-round draft pick, D.J. Moore.

Despite trailing in receptions and yards, Samuel’s expected points were impressive due to the value of opportunities around the goal line. He translated those opportunities into points with five receiving and two rushing TDs.

These are encouraging numbers when you consider the potential for a third-year breakout, and Samuel looks like the poster boy for that cohort. In Third-Year Breakouts: 8 Stats You Need to Know and Why 2019 Is Loaded With Candidates, we learned that 11 of the 21 third-year breakouts since 2000 have been second- or third-round picks.

Samuel finished 2018 by scoring double figures in seven of his final nine games. Given his prospect profile and his ability to overcome early injuries, the Carolina youngster appears poised for an explosion.

Samuel’s ADP Makes Him the Perfect Contingency Plan

Heading into the last week of June, Cort Smith pointed to Samuel’s rise but urged you to still buy at those prices. His ADP has screamed north since that time.

If you took Cort’s advice, you’ve already turned a hefty profit, but there’s still room to run. Samuel is currently selected after red flag veterans like Allen Robinson, Alshon Jeffery, Sammy Watkins, and Marvin Jones, but those WRs may appeal to a different style of drafter.

Samuel’s presence at WR39 offers a contingency plan for owners who miss on an earlier breakout target. Since you’re already adopting some risk by targeting unproven players, it’s important to manage that risk by not reaching on top of it. Samuel provides a Plan B for drafters who couldn’t land Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, or Dante Pettis.

In fact, Samuel is a key player for RotoViz users to help balance our enthusiasm for Moore. The impending star was one of my 27 Priority targets, and in that piece I discuss why Curtis Patrick and Cort Smith have been raving about him as well. Knowing that Samuel is a later option – and an option with almost as much upside – allows us to avoid reaching too frequently in drafts.

Image Credit: John Cordes/Icon Sportswire Pictured: Mecole Hardman.

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  1. And if we’ve learned anything about fantasy football, it’s to also believe the early-camp puff pieces.  (back)

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