Who is the Next Deebo and C-Patt?
Deebo Samuel and Cordarrelle Patterson set the NFL on fire as fantasy cheat codes in 2021. Wide receiver AND running back?! Wide back? Offensive weapon? Dude?! Whatever you call it, let’s take a look at how their roles increased, and who profiles to be the next Deebo & C-Patt.
Patterson’s best fantasy season came along with a career high in rushing, nearly doubling his career rushing attempts as well. In his first eight seasons, Patterson had a combined 167 rushing attempts for 1017 rushing yards and 8 rushing TDs. In 2021, Patterson had 153 rushes for 618 rushing yards and 6 rushing TDs.
“It’s a copycat league.” We hear this every single year. Armchair quarterbacks make it seem so easy to put a wide receiver in the backfield, and reap the rewards. Big, fast receivers who handled carries in college? Move them into the backfield. Simple enough, right?
DK Metcalf and A.J. Brown
A couple of former Ole Miss stars have contracts expiring after 2021, and are well on their way to getting paid like Deebo. But that seems to be where the comparisons stop. Metcalf only has 3 career rushing attempts, while Brown only has 5 career rushing attempts. Metcalf and Brown had zero college carries. While they possess the speed and strength to line up in the backfield, all indications lean towards Metcalf and Brown not being utilized as a wide back. Brown has Derrick Henry in the backfield, and Brown wasn’t used as a rusher when Henry missed 9 games in 2021.
With 19 career rushing attempts in 11 seasons, nobody is expecting Julio Jones to line up in the backfield anytime soon. Injuries to his foot, ankle, hamstring and hip have surely sapped some of that 4.39 speed he ran at the 2011 Combine. 10 college carries is better than Metcalf and Brown, but that happened in 2009 and 2010. Barring a signing to a creative (or perhaps desperate) team, don’t expect Julio and wide back to become synonymous.
Chase Claypool has 24 career rushing attempts. However, with a 4.7 yards per carry, Claypool’s efficiency doesn’t measure up to Samuel’s 6.8 ypc or Patterson’s 5.1 ypc. Neither does Claypool’s 2.6 yards after catch per target in 2021, compared to Samuel’s 6.5 yac/tgt or Patterson’s 5.6 yac/tgt. Add in three college rushing attempts for 6 yards, he wasn’t utilized in the run game in college either. While he’s a big body who can run fast, Claypool hasn’t shown the ability of a wide back. And if you take anything from Metcalf’s quote, at 6’4”, Claypool is too tall to line up in the backfield. Patterson can do it at 6’2” but apparently 6’4” is where the line is crossed.
At 6’1” 215lbs with a 4.42 40 to his name, Amari Cooper has the physical tools that resemble Deebo and C-Patt. Cooper also has 14 NFL carries throughout his 7 year career. However, with a career 2.9 ypc, alongside zero carries with a 1.9 yac/tgt in 2021, don’t expect to see a position change in Cleveland.
Kevin White and Breshad Perriman
Football fans wanted former 1st round picks Kevin White and Breshad Perriman to be a thing. Unfortunately, White fractured his tibia, fibula and scapula. Perriman tore his ACL and PCL. Please dont call them busts after catastrophic injuries. We’re all rooting for you.
The same can be said about former 2nd round pick Jordan Matthews, who sustained a knee injury early in his career and has since converted to tight end. With zero career carries, a run in the backfield was never in the cards for the former slot receiver.
The jury is still out on former 2nd round pick Miles Boykin, who had 1 reception for 6 yards in 2021. With zero career carries, it seems unlikely. Perhaps a change of scenery could do Boykin some good.
2nd round rookie Nico Collins is an ascending Texans WR. In 14 games in 2021, Collins had 33 receptions for 446 yards. However, at 6’4” with a 2.1 yac/tgt, and zero career rushing attempts in both the NFL and college, he’s not going to become a wide back.
Joe Reed is entering his 3rd year with the Chargers as a 5th round pick. Before the start of his rookie season in August 2020, The Athletic reported that Reed spent time with the running backs during training camp. In his rookie year, he had 5 carries for 29 yards (including a rush TD). Reed was also utilized as a returner in 2020, with 21 kick returns for 435 yards. Along with 34 college carries at Virginia for 172 yards at a 5.1 ypc clip, Reed spent time on the practice squad injured list in 2021. He’s someone to monitor this off-season. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are proven at the top of the depth chart, but Josh Palmer and Jaylen Guyton are still establishing roles. Joe Reed might be in line for an expanded wide back role in 2022.
Ashton Dulin is a fourth-year Colts receiver who has made an impact in 2021 with two TDs on 13 catches for 173 yards. He also has 5 career carries for 43 yards and 8.6 ypc. The former D2 star had 53 carries for 387 rushing yards in college, including a 70 yard rush. With a 4.43 40 yard time at 215 lbs, he certainly fits the profile of a wide back. Currently 2nd on the Colts depth chart in career targets, an expanded role should be in the cards for the Colts offense. With Matt Ryan at the helm, expect a veteran WR signing (Julio reunion?) and perhaps a draft pick at WR as well. However, Dulin is an All-Pro special teamer on a $2.4M tender. All-Pro special teamer in an expanded role. Sound familiar, Patterson fans? There’s a lot of sleeper potential here.
Dezmon Patmon is the second Colt to make this list (Michael Pittman Jr. nearly made this list too, but just missed out because of his 4.52 40 time). With just two career targets, Patmon is not making the impact Dulin is for the Colts. And at 6’4” with zero career carries in college or the pros, it’s unlikely the hybrid role is a fit.
The stick in Brandon Aiyuk’s craw, Trent Sherfield received more snaps than Aiyuk early on in 2021. Sherfield averaged 1.2 yac/tgt for the 49ers last season. He hasn’t shown an ability to run after the catch. At Vanderbilt, he did have 22 carries for 284 rushing yards and 12.9 ypc with 2 rushing TDs. However, he has zero NFL rushing attempts in four seasons. The fact that he didn’t translate into a wide back in a Shanahan offense has to be a cause for concern. However, he gets another shot at the Shanahan system following Mike McDaniel to Miami.
Saints second-year receiver Kawaan Baker is a player who absolutely fits the wide back role. The former South Alabama start had 92 career rushes for 376 yards and 11 rush TDs, along with 126 receptions for 1829 receiving yards and 16 receiving TDs. Michael Thomas is returning in 2022 alongside Marquez Callaway, analytics darling Deonte Harty (formerly Deonte Harris), and burner Tre’Quan Smith. There’s no doubt Michael Thomas is a WR1. Callaway had a dominant preseason but disappointed for some during the regular season. Smith and Harty have had some injuries. The path is muddled, but Baker is on the sneaky sleeper wide back list.
Although currently unsigned entering his 6th season, David Moore received 12 carries for 91 yards in Seattle. With 3.4 yac/tgt in 2020, as well as a career 7.6 ypc average, it’s possible that Moore has the ability to become a wide back. He just has to make another roster first.
Titans second-year Racey McMath received at least ten offensive snaps for five games in 2021. Unfortunately, that’s translated into 2 receptions for 8 receiving yards. Not to mention, there was playing time available with Julio Jones battling injuries. With zero career carries in college and the NFL, McMath doesn’t profile in the hybrid role.
Justin Watson is a fourth-year receiver for the Chiefs with 23 career receptions for 258 yards and 3 TDs. He has a Super Bowl title to his name, but no carries or returns. Anything is possible playing alongside Patrick Mahomes, especially with Tyreek Hill leaving to Miami. But a breakout doesn’t seem likely.
Simi Fehoko had just 7 offensive snaps for the Cowboys during his 2021 rookie season, and just one rush attempt in college. With Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson Jr. gone this off-season, he’s on the radar as a sleeper. However, at 6’3”, with basically no rushing resume, don’t project Fehoko into the wide back role.
Gary Jennings Jr.
Former Seahawks 4th round pick Gary Jennings has received just one career offensive snap in three seasons. With zero rush attempts at West Virginia, a hybrid role is unlikely but Tyreek Hill is gone, and the Chiefs have an opening at WR. Keep an eye out for Jennings in case he makes the final roster.
Potential wide backs currently in the NFL
The first prospect that comes to mind for seemingly everyone is Treylon Burks. Burks seemingly doesn’t fit the size/speed profile with a 4.55 40 yard dash. However, thanks to Recruiting Analytics, we can see that Burks hit a 22.6 MPH max speed as a ball carrier. No play in the NFL featured a faster ball carrier speed in 2021, and only two plays were faster in 2020. When watching the film, Burks seemingly glides past defenders. With 38 career carries at Arkansas for 5.8 ypc, he fits the ball carrier profile. His 15 missed tackles forced tied for 38th among college receivers in 2021. And at 224 lbs, he certainly fits the size profile. While he ran a 4.55 40, we’ve seen him fast on the field. And that should matter more. For the sake of this exercise, we’ll count Burks as a potential wide back with an asterisk.
With 49 career college carries and a 4.36 40 yard time, Christian Watson has some of the chops to be a wide back prospect. However, at 6’5” and 208 lbs, he seems to be too tall and too skinny to be running between the tackles. And with only 6 missed tackles forced, he ranked 245th among college receivers. It's not happening.
71 career carries for 414 rushing yards and 5.8 ypc sounds very nice for Khalil Shakir. Especially when considering his 4.43 40 yard dash. His 14 missed tackles forced in 2021 isn't bad either, 48th among receivers. However, at 196 lbs, he’ll likely need to put on some size to run between the tackles. But it can be done.
You thought 71 career carries was a lot? Now check out Wan’Dale Robinson, who had 134 rush attempts at Nebraska in his first two seasons before settling down for 7 rush attempts at Kentucky in 2021. A 4.9 ypc clip isn’t bad, but we’d hope for a little more in college. Oh, and he breaks tackles too! 22 missed tackles forced in 2021, tied for 8th among receivers. Robinson ran a 4.44 at the combine, so you'd hope he’d be a Tyreek Hill type weapon, but Hill ran a 4.29 40 at his pro day. Robinson could be dangerous in the right role.
Bo Melton had 25 rush attempts for 165 yards and a nice 6.6 ypc at Rutgers. At 189 lbs, he doesn’t fit the size profile. But he hit a 4.34 40 time at the combine. 12 missed tackles forced placed him 73rd among receivers in 2021. Someone to consider.
Jalen Nailor just beat the 15 carry threshold we’re looking for in college with 17 at Michigan State. He’s only 186 lbs running a 4.5 40. Furthermore, he only had 7 missed tackles forced in 2021, 200th among receivers.
Velus Jones Jr.
A rare six-season college player at USC and Tennessee, Velus Jones Jr. had 15 rush attempts. Not to mention a 4.31 40 time at 204 lbs. He also received 122 kick returns for 2973 kick return yards and 2 TDs. It’s not a pre-requisite, but it’s nice to see that he’s valued as a ball carrier and return man. And he forced 16 missed tackles, tied for 31st among receivers. But he did it at age 24. Not the breakout age we're looking for.
With 53 rush attempts for 456 yards, 8.6 ypc and 4 rushing TDs at Virginia Tech, Turner was certainly utilized as a wide back. However, he did not meet the sub 4.5 40 threshold or the size we’re seeking at 184 lbs. And only 7 missed tackles forced, tied for 200th. This ain't it.
Deven Thompkins had exactly 15 rush attempts at Utah State, with 138 rushing yards and 9.2 ypc. He reportedly hit a 4.44 40 time at his pro day. However, he measured at 5’6” 167 lbs. He’s not Tyreek Hill in terms of speed, and certainly not Deebo Samuel or Cordarrelle Patterson in terms of size. And with only 8 missed tackles forced, Thompkins tied for 162nd. This is not the juke rate we're looking for.
Potential wide back prospects
In conclusion, there’s eight receivers who might become the next Deebo Samuel and Cordarrelle Patterson, but nobody we can definitively slot in as the next great wide back.