The clock is ticking and your fantasy football draft is right around the corner. You’ve been studying the Ultimate Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet, you’ve read all the strategy articles in the free fantasy football draft guide and you even took our fantasy football player rankings, made a few adjustments and made them your own. After a fantasy football mock draft or three, you’re ready for the big day, right? Well, maybe you’ve got a few more questions. Like – what’s the deal in San Francisco? If the 49ers are putting their trust into Trey Lance, can I do the same and comfortably draft Deebo Samuel where his current fantasy football ADP has him? Welcome to the Fantasy Football Player Debates where two of our analysts take opposing sides on players and give you their arguments, whether they are pro or against drafting that player.

Today we have Britt Flinn and Colby Conway going head-to-head on the 49ers wide receiver. If Deebo Samuel has been a target of yours in your drafts, you’re going to want to see what’s next.





Why You Should Draft Deebo Samuel in Fantasy Football

by Britt Flinn

In the South, we have a saying, “that dog won’t hunt.” It’s a phrase used when you know something isn’t going to work out for the best, and that’s all I can think of when I hear people recommending fading Deebo Samuel. For the life of me, I can’t figure out the argument for why he isn’t a solid asset on your fantasy rosters. It’s not like he’s competing for targets on a new team like Tyreek Hill or has added target competition. The 49ers kept their offensive core largely intact. Deebo is a fixture in Shanahan’s West Coast offensive scheme, and he was the WR3 in PPR formats last season with 21.2 points per game. Maybe it’s the Brandon Aiyuk hype we’re hearing out of training camp, but we saw how that worked out last season. Deebo Samuel is an elite option, even if he’s not used as much in a wide-back role.

First things first: Deebo is a YAC (yards after catch) monster. In 2021, despite being 21st in the league in targets, he finished fifth in yards and second in YAC. He was also fourth in yards per route run, first in yards per target, and first in fantasy points per target. This wasn’t due to Jimmy Garoppolo’s huge arm or deep balls, it was due to Deebo’s evasiveness and ability to shake off defenders. This makes him a perfect fit in Shanahan’s West Coast offense, as he’ll be utilized often on the underneath routes, but it also makes him perfect for fantasy, as he’ll be able to gain yardage on those routes better than anyone else in the league. We saw that last year, and talent doesn’t just disappear overnight.

“But Trey Lance is going to take away rushing opportunities. Deebo won’t have the rushing upside that made him elite.” Okay, let’s say that Lance does take the goal line work and Deebo gets zero of last season’s 84.5 fantasy points this year. If nothing else changes, he would STILL finish in WR1 territory last season, and that regression is built into his ADP this year at WR7. I still think he does a little work in RPO pistol formations, and he’s bound to pad his stats on the ground, even if it’s not the level it was last season. He has too much talent and versatility for Shanahan to just totally abandon the scheme. When it works, it works.

“San Francisco’s schedule is too hard this year.” True, the 49ers do have one of the toughest strength of schedules in the league this year due to the NFC West conference matchups and out of conference schedule with the AFC West. What you’re not seeing on paper is that those matchups should be absolute dogfights, full of scoring and offensive possessions. San Francisco is expected to put up an average of 24.5 points per game, so there will be plenty of opportunity for Deebo to accrue fantasy points. The 49ers should be forced to throw at a slightly higher pace than last season when they ranked 31st in pass attempts, and as the number one receiver, Deebo is set to benefit.

Quit overthinking it. Deebo is a good player with tons of opportunity on a good team. If you’re fading him, I have one more Southern saying for you…bless your heart.



Don't Draft Deebo Samuel at his Current Fantasy Football ADP

by Colby Conway

Deebo Samuel is a big play waiting to happen and is one of the most dynamic players in the entire NFL with the football in his hands. He thrived last year in a wide receiver and running back hybrid role, coined wide back, putting up over 1,700 total yards. He scored 14 total touchdowns, eight of which came on the ground on just 59 carries. His fantasy production last year was impressive, don’t get me wrong, and like the old adage, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Take a look at his splits from last season:

  • Weeks 1-9: Six carries for 22 yards and one TD on the ground, but had 49 receptions on 81 targets for 882 yards and 4 TDs. This receiving pace for the first eight games of the season comes to 104 receptions for 1,874 yards and eight touchdowns over a full season, which would have made him the WR3 in both PPR and standard formats.
  • Weeks 10-18: 53 carries for 343 yards and seven rushing touchdowns, but a per-game average of just 3.5 receptions on five targets for 65.4 yards. That receiving pace would put him at 60 receptions for 1,111 yards and four touchdowns, and with no rushing production, that puts him at WR29 in PPR and WR26 in standard formats.

Predicting touchdowns is a tough game to play, but there are some factors to which we can point. Samuel had 19 percent of the team’s red zone carries last season, and he scored a rushing touchdown on 13.5 percent of his carries, which led all players with at least 30 rushing attempts. A healthy Elijah Mitchell, a bounce-back campaign from Trey Sermon, the 232 lb. rookie Tyrion Davis-Price, and the mobile Trey Lance are also in play for red zone work. Touchdown regression on the ground is most certainly in store for Samuel, and no matter how talented he is, the top running backs came in at the 7-8 percent mark last season.

Again, I cannot say this enough, but I do believe that Samuel will still get his fair share of rushing attempts, but I’m hard-pressed to believe he’ll receive as much usage on the ground as he did last year. There were reports that he was unhappy about his usage, and if it weren’t for his production on the ground in the second half of last season, we’d be talking about Samuel in a vastly different light. If the rushing work decreases significantly, and when the touchdown regression inevitably hits Samuel in the ground game, do you trust Trey Lance enough to get Samuel the football through the air to offset the inevitable decrease from last year’s rushing production that accounted for one-fourth of his fantasy output (PPR)? When looking at receivers going around Samuel, do you trust Lance more than the likes of Tom Brady, Justin Herbert, or Joe Burrow? That’s the question to ask yourself in your fantasy football drafts.

Two very compelling arguments. Which side are you on?

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