Which Rookie Wide Receiver Should I Be Drafting? Deebo Samuel vs N’Keal Harry

2019 Rookie Buy or Bye

By: Will Harris @itsharristime

Calvin Ridley broke the mold with a productive rookie season with over 800+ yards, 10 TDs and was WR 22 with 12.9 FFPG. How can we find this year’s Ridley?

Charting a breakout WR in their rookie season is extremely difficult to predict. The nuances of the position make it tougher for WRs to have a meaningful season in year one. This is not to say it’s not possible, and that it isn’t worthwhile to seek out potential breakout candidates in your fantasy leagues. Be as calculated and smart as you can when taking these rookie WRs, and balance their athleticism, situation, college performance, and current ADP when making the pick.

In the first edition of Rookie “Buy or Bye” I talked you through two RB rookies that I like a lot: Josh Jacobs and Miles Sanders. Though each project to be special talents, it came down to the cost associated to acquire those RBs that drove my decision. You should read it here to find out who I’m “buying”. As I mentioned earlier, WRs are difficult to project in year one.  Calvin Ridley was the #1 rookie wide out last year, with his 2018 production outpacing his ADP at 10.11 making him WR22 in PPR formats. Drafted in the first round at 26th overall by the Falcons, his early breakout would have been tough to predict. Looking back, what could have been used to predict Ridley’s ascension in Atlanta?

1: Palatable ADP in the 10th round

2: Joining a pass heavy offence led by Matt Ryan

3: Consistent 3 year college production in college at Alabama.

4: Strong testing relative to role (6th fastest WR @ 2018 combine)

In this article, I’m looking at Deebo Samuel of the 49ers and N’Keal Harry of the Patriots, both WRs who I am high on for productive NFL careers. Using the Calvin Ridley methodology explained above, I will help you decide who to “Buy or Bye” between the two. Each had productive college careers, posted similar workout metrics during their combines and landed in strong systems. Let’s first take a look at the Patriots 32nd overall pick first, N’Keal Harry.

Harry has first round draft capital and faith from the reigning Super Bowl Champions in Foxboro. N’Keal played three seasons at Arizona State, and managed 38 broken tackles during his collegiate career, using his speed and size to separate and devastate defensive backs. Harry used his 98th percentile Nike SPARQ-x athletic profile to establish himself as on of the highest rated deep receiving prospects in college football. The Patriots hope to give Brady a much-vaunted down field presence that Randy Moss and Josh Gordon have brought before. We’ve seen what an “alpha” receiver can do for NE, and what that means for fantasy.

Downfield threat combined with elite size adjust athleticism? Check. N’Keal Harry projects to have a WR1 trajectory in New England. And aren’t those blue and gold Arizona State uniforms bad ass?

Not to be outdone in the athleticism department, Deebo Samuel is an exciting prospect for the 49ers being drafted in the 2nd round. Deebo played four years at University of South Carolina, and was the 3rd receiver off the board in the 2019 draft. Samuel should not be overlooked when potentially selecting a rookie WR in this year’s draft. Deebo has an exceptional athletic profile, and tested in the upper echelons of all athletic testing at the combine. His YAC numbers are impressive racking up 8.4 yards after catch, using his strength and speed to make significant gains after catching the pass. Knowing that Kyle Shanahan has no issue scheming in special players, I expect Deebo to be an important chess piece in the San Francisco offense.

  Tyshun “Deebo” Samuel N’Keal Harry
2019 Drafted by the SanFrancisco 49ers, 2.04 Drafted by the New England Patriots. 1.32
2018 98 Targets, 62 Receptions, 882 Yds, 592 YAC, 11 TDS 113 Targets, 73 Receptions, 1088 Yds, 515 YAC, 9 TDS
2017 22 Targets, 15 Receptions, 250 Yds, 143 YAC, 3 TDS 120 Targets, 83 Receptions, 1158 Yds, 447 YAC, 8 TDS
2016 81 Targets, 59 Receptions, 783 Yds, 423 YAC, 1 TD 94 Targets, 58 Receptions, 659 Yds, 325 YAC, 5 TDS
Total: 223 Targets, 66.4 Catch %, 8.4 YAC, 16 TDs, 11 Drops 327 Targets, 65.1 Catch %, 6.0 YAC, 22 TDS, 15 Drops
Combine: Height: 5’11 Weight: 214 40 Time: 4.48 Vertical Jump: 39.0 3-Cone Drill: 7.03 Height: 6’2 Weight: 228 40 Time:: 4.53 Vertical Jump: 38.5 3-Cone Drill: N/A

Tyshun “Deebo” Samuel got his nickname from the film Friday for his ability to bully opposing cornerbacks with his physicality. This made him a YAC monster in college.

Looking at both college performance and athletic profiles, both Deebo and N’Keal are impressive prospects. As WRs, each were used in their college systems differently. N’Keal was used to stretch the field and to be an elite downfield option. Harry used his size and athleticism to win contested catches on a routine basis, and New England hopes this continues at the NFL level. Deebo was looked to as an outlet receiver that could create space when given the ball. He was an absolute bulldog when given the ball and like his namesake, Deebo from the movie Friday, was a bully. Samuel was also used as a runner and special teams punt returner, which will have defensive coordinators on point when game planning how to play the 49ers. How their skill-sets project to the NFL will be how their respective teams decide to use them.

Athletically, don’t be fooled by Harry’s slower 40 time as he is 2” taller and 14 pounds heavier. When factoring this in, Harry’s speed is actually very impressive. I’m not buying the hype that Harry isn’t considered “explosive”. He’ll be able to win in the NFL. Both Samuel and Harry are upper percentile Nike SPARQ-x’s athletes and will use their profiles to win in different ways. There is no doubt that both will be threats when given the ball given their college YAC numbers, and their respective broken tackles while in the NCAA.

Let’s take a deeper look at each wide receiver’s situation they are going into in their rookie seasons.


AFC East

In a heartbeat we may want to give the edge here to Harry and the AFC East. Yes, the division is putrid with the perennial champs Patriots getting to play against the Dolphins, Jets and Bills twice a year. Let’s slow that down though. Each of these three teams have strong defensive backs, and a potential shutdown corner to shadow Harry as he learns the ropes for New England. Think about this: the Dolphins have Xavien Howard, the Jets have Trumaine Johnson, and the surprising Levi Wallace to go along with Tre White of the underrated Buffalo Bills D. Depending on how he is used, division play could hinder a breakout for Harry in year one. Combine this with the division overall being weak, there is not much shootout potential for the Patriots to really tap into Harry’s downfield prowess.

NFC West

What a striking dichotomy between these two player’s divisions. When we think NFC West, it screams “shoot-out” potential. With the high-flying Rams, the Kliff Kingsbury Air-Raid system being implemented in Arizona, and the ultra efficient Russell Wilson led Seahawks, the 49ers are due to be in some high scoring games. Unfortunately for the 49ers, Samuel & Co play the Cardinals twice post Patrick Peterson suspension, but I don’t think this will impact Deebo’s performance, especially if he is playing out of the slot. With Dante Pettis set to play on the outside with Marquise Goodwin, Deebo should feast in the slot with schemed plays. And remember, Seattle is Legion of Boomless. Love how the division play shapes up for Deebo and the 49ers.

Is there a better supporting cast than the roster of the New England Patriots?

Supporting Cast- The Winners Circle- New England

The GOAT at QB=check. Reigning Super Bowl MVP=check. A coaching staff that can win in any situation and play to their players strengths=check. The running game will be one of the strongest in the NFL. There might not be a better total “team” in the NFL than the Pats.

Supporting Cast- The Electric Shanahan System – San Francisco

Doesn’t it seem like for years we’ve been waiting for the famed Shanahan offensive revolution to begin in SF? Injuries have taken a toll on what could be one of the most electrifying offenses in the NFL. Jimmy Garoppolo looked every bit the part of an elite NFL QB when traded from New England in 2017, and 2018 could have went differently if it wasn’t for one fateful run. The WR corps looks deep yet relatively unproven. The RB situation is similar: a lot of bodies but no clear bell-cow.

Depth Chart/Expected Usage – New England

N’Keal Harry slots in to be the #1 outside receiver option for the Pats with Julian Edelman predominantly working the slot. Harry’s competition is a mix of unproven players. With New England’s first round investment in Harry, there is a commitment to making him WR1.

Depth Chart/Expected Usage – San Francisco

The 49ers have an interesting mix at WR. Dante Pettis seems to be the “do it all” WR1. Marquise Goodwin is a track star used to stretch the field. George Kittle adds a dynamic at TE that only guys named Kelce and Ertz can do. Fellow 2019 draftee Jalen Hurd projects in a similar role to what Deebo will be used as, which is a concern. Samuel’s experience, athletic profile and draft capital should be enough to win him the job and more snaps out of the slot.

How will Kyle Shanahan decide to use his new weapons with a health Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco?

Question Marks- New England Up in Smoke?

Only really two real question marks for N’Keal Harry. First is learning the often demanding and complicated New England offense. I feel that Harry will do this, it just might not be in year one. What is more of a question mark, and could really throw the plans for Harry out the window is the status of Josh Gordon. If eligible to come back this season, I don’t see Harry supplanting Gordon as the alpha receiver in this offense. With a Gordon return, it would allow them to bring along Harry slower, which would increase his long-term value. It wouldn’t help fantasy owners this season though.

Question Marks- Is Jimmy G The Real Deal?

I talked earlier about Jimmy Garoppolo and what he brought SF when traded from New England. Will he help elevate San Francisco to the west coast version of the Falcons? Does he play a full slate of games? Will Deebo be the trick play/slot darling we want him to be, or will that duty go to the giant converted running back Jalen Hurd drafted one round after Samuel? Lots of uncertainty in SF but the upside is undeniable for this team.

Let’s hope for the sake of SF fantasy players on our rosters that Jimmy G decides to stay in the pocket.

There would be more of a debate if N’Keal Harry and Deebo Samuel were being drafted close to each other in drafts this year. I’d seriously have to debate who I was taking based on their athletic profiles, situations and usage on their respective teams. With Harry going on average at the 9.12 mark in PPR leagues, it’s simply too high for the question marks associated with him, and the learning curve for any rookie WR. Take a look at who Harry is being drafted around: fellow Patriot Damien Harris who could see red zone touches with Michel’s banged up knee, Titans #1 receiver Corey Davis at the 9.07, and potential WR1 Courtland Sutton coming in at 9.11. All three of these players I’m taking before N’Keal Harry or any another rookie wide receiver.

I generally recommend to avoid first year wide receivers in fantasy. There are more variables to factor in for these players breaking into the league and much tougher to predict than running back. Deebo Samuel can be had in the 14+ round, and, if you want the excitement of potentially drafting a breakout WR, I’m willing to take a flyer on Deebo. Drafting a 1st year WR is risky and it is tough to dedicate a roster spot to one on a 15 man draft. Do I feel better taking Deebo in the 14th-15th round vs Harry in the 9th round? You betcha.

It’s clear: I’m buying Deebo Samuel at his current ADP and waving bye to N’Keal Harry and waiting for the Josh Gordon smoke to clear.

About the Author- @itsharristime is relatively new to the fantasy football scene having spent most of his life watching and playing hockey like a good Canadian. He’s making up for lost time by playing big on Draft, FanDuel, and is involved in season long and dynasty leagues on FFPC, Yahoo, ESPN and MyFantasyLeague. Steeler football, family, rock n’ roll and keeping things simple.

Seek value and have no player bias=winning formula.



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