Curtis Samuel Fantasy Outlook: How This Boom/Bust WR Might Become Washington’s Top Fantasy Scorer

After an injury-plagued 2021 campaign, Washington Commanders WR Curtis Samuel flashed last year. What is his fantasy outlook in 2023?

At PFN, we’ve researched more than 350 fantasy football players, trying to identify which ones are overrated, underrated, and priced right. With that in mind, here is Washington Commanders WR Curtis Samuel’s fantasy outlook for 2023.

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Curtis Samuel’s 2023 Fantasy Outlook

In its nearly century-long history, Washington’s playoff teams have always scored more regular-season points than they’ve yielded. Last year’s team nearly defied precedent. Seemingly doomed from the start with a post-prime Carson Wentz at quarterback and six games in the ferocious NFC East, the Commanders weren’t expected to make much noise.

But in those first six games with Wentz at the helm — before the veteran QB was benched for Taylor Heinicke for most of the rest of the season — Curtis Samuel frequently looked like the team’s co-No. 1 wideout alongside presumed alpha Terry McLaurin and high-flying rookie Jahan Dotson.

This was the version of Samuel that Washington believed they had signed the year before, shortly after the receiver issued a deceptively sterling 77-851-1 receiving line in Carolina. His 79.4% catch rate that year led all WRs with more than 40 targets. The former second-round draft pick appeared to be an ascending talent.

And so, his rebirth in 2022 was surprising — not because he lacks legit NFL talent, but because of the headwinds facing a wideout surrounded by two starter-caliber receivers and a highly questionable QB situation. Despite this, he averaged 15.0 fantasy points per game in the first five weeks.

The headwinds hit harder when Heinicke took over. Even with Dotson sidelined for several weeks and rendered as an afterthought for three more during the midseason, Samuel couldn’t capitalize. After enjoying 7+ targets in his first five games, he exceeded five only twice the rest of the year, as the offensive scheme became more run-heavy.

For the team, it worked — at least initially — as Washington climbed out of a 1-4 hole to move to 7-5, briefly controlling their playoff destiny. But it came at a steep cost to Samuel’s fantasy value. He hit double-digit fantasy points only twice from Week 10 onward.

Entering 2023, the young and inexperienced Sam Howell will take over at quarterback. In many respects, the headwinds are fiercer. Washington should continue to pound the ball on the ground, hoping its backfield and defense can keep them competitive while buying time as Howell develops.

For his part, Howell might have a bright NFL future. He’s still only 22 years old and might turn out to be a fifth-round steal, aided by an upper-tier rushing ability that garnered him 828 ground yards and 11 rushing scores in his final year at North Carolina.

Yes, that adds to Samuel’s potential fantasy woes. While Wentz and Heinicke had situational rushing talent, they were still passers, first and foremost. Like most wideouts, Samuel needs a pass-heavy QB to sustain fantasy relevance, and there’s no assurance that Howell will provide anything close to that in his first full professional campaign.

On the flip side, three factors might work in Samuel’s favor. First, his blazing speed makes him a unique after-the-catch weapon in this offense. Before the catch, McLaurin and Dotson averaged more than 10 yards each last season. Samuel netted only 5.7, with most of his damage coming with the ball in his hands.

His elite broken-tackle rate in 2022 (one per eight receptions) reinforces his value. As a pseudo-rookie, Howell might lean more heavily on the short game. That’s where Samuel thrives.

Second, Samuel is accustomed to playing with new quarterbacks. His last eight TD receptions were thrown by Wentz, Heinicke, P.J. Walker, Teddy Bridgewater, and Kyle Allen. When healthy, Samuel has remained efficient despite constant QB changes — even with guys possessing minimal starter experience.

Third, he’s dangerous on the ground, with six career rushing touchdowns and a stellar 5.9 overall yards per carry. This is not someone the Commanders want to keep on wraps. And too often late last season, Samuel took a backseat when the team needed him most.

So despite the crowded receiving corps, enigmatic QB situation, and run-friendly offense, there should still be a role for Samuel.

Consistency won’t play in his favor. But if you want a boom/bust flier who could legitimately become Washington’s top-performing fantasy WR, he’s one of the most fascinating cheap investments around. Additionally, his path for relevance becomes a bit clearer if McLaurin’s toe injury lingers into the start of the 2023 NFL season.

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