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.

Both players combined a career high in receiving yards with a career high in rushing. Samuel as a rookie in 2019 averaged 12.6 PPR points per game, finishing 33rd among WRs in points per game. In 2020, he averaged 11.5 PPR points per game, with a WR46 finish. In 2021, he averaged 20.7 PPR points per game, finishing as the WR3. Samuel nearly doubled his career fantasy points. In his first two seasons, Samuel tallied 22 rushing attempts for 185 rushing yards and 3 rushing TDs. He doubled his rushing stats in 2021, with 59 rushes for 365 rushing yards and 8 rushing TDs.

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?

Deebo Samuel’s quotes seem to cater in favor of the armchair quarterbacks. During the 2021 season, he labeled his position as a “wide back” — a combination of a wide receiver and running back. How did the 49ers approach Samuel about using him as a running back more often? “They just came to me and said, ‘Hey, we’re just going to give you a couple of handoffs this week.’ That’s just how it came about.”

Current Dolphins head coach and former 49ers run game coordinator makes it seem a little more difficult than that.

“The evolution of how we use him, that’s a product of two things. Him being a really good football player and I think Kyle does an outstanding job of really pushing his staff to open their mind and see what’s there maybe that we haven’t done or really think through the whys of everything that we do. So that combination of a skillset with a particular player and the drive that Kyle’s been pushing on me since the day I started working with him.”

Judging by that quote, we’re looking for three things. They have to be a really good football player, their coaches have to be open to change, and that player needs to have a particular skillset.

What is that skillset? When comparing Samuel and Patterson, we found three qualities that they share. They’re big bodied WRs. Both are listed at a weight of at least 215 lbs. They’re fast. Coming out of college, they ran a sub 4.5 40 yard dash. And as a bonus, they were utilized in the run game in college. They both received exactly 25 college rushing attempts.

When searching through every single WR who was at one point signed to an NFL team, there are 19 WRs listed at 215+ lbs who ran a sub 4.5 40 yard dash. We’ll start with the biggest names and work our way down to the sneaky sleepers.

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.

When Metcalf asked about the role, Metcalf admitted the role is not for him. “I would rather not line up in the backfield at running back. I’m 6’4”. I’m not about to line up in the backfield. Deebo is a very versatile player to where he could line up in the backfield, he can go out to receiver, he can go into the slot, he can go into the slot, he can return punts and kicks.”

Julio Jones

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

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.

Amari Cooper

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.

Jordan Matthews

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.

Miles Boykin

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.

Nico Collins

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

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

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

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.

Trent Sherfield

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.

Kawaan Baker

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.

David Moore

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.

Racey McMath

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

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

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

Among current WRs in the NFL, potential wide backs are:

  • Ashton Dulin

  • Joe Reed

  • Kawaan Baker

Now that we've scoured through the entire league, whittled it down to 19 WRs who fit the size/speed profile, then whittled it down further to three WRs who received at least 15 college carries, let's take a look at 2022’s NFL prospects to see if a team can draft the next great wide back.

Treylon Burks

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.

Christian Watson

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.

Khalil Shakir

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.

Wan’Dale Robinson

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

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

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.

Tre Turner

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

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

There we have it. Nine receiver prospects who had at least 15 carries in college. Among those, how many did it at 215+ lbs with a sub 4.5 40 time? ZERO! There is no prospect who truly fits in the profile it takes to become a successful wide back. Therefore, we can only list the eight players who fit into at least two of these categories. Among those, there's five prospects who could potentially become a wide back.

  • Treylon Burks

  • Wan’Dale Robinson

  • Velus Jones Jr.

  • Khalil Shakir

  • Bo Melton

The only receiver who did it at 215+ lbs was Treylon Burks. He technically didn’t hit the 40 time we’re looking for. But we’ve seen him hit elite max speeds on the field. He seems to be the likeliest prospect to be utilized as a wide back.

There is no receiver prospect who had at 15 carries in college at 215+ lbs with a sub 4.5 40 time. There’s only three current NFL players who meet these requirements, and they’re a former 5th round pick, 7th round pick and undrafted free agent.

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.