Leading up to last Monday night the Pittsburgh Steelers had struggled to move the ball for the majority of the 2019 season. So Pittsburgh did what any logical offense would do, take a page out of the 2008 Tony Sporano-led Miami Dolphins playbook.
Pittsburgh went full-blown wildcat vs. the Cincinnati Bengals on national TV a week ago. The move unleashed untapped potential for an offense that had been hungry for production, along with unforeseen fantasy value for a previously lightly-used backup running back.
Jaylen Samuels was the waiver-wire must add of the week following his Week 4 performance. Is Samuels now a fantasy must-start in Week 5 vs. the Baltimore Ravens? We discuss.
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Jaylen Samuels Fantasy Outlook vs. Baltimore Ravens
Jaylen Samuels did his best Ronnie Brown impression a week ago, operating out of the wildcat for the majority of his snaps vs. the Bengals. Forget about the newfound schematics in Pittsburgh for a minute, Samuels simply getting snaps in Week 4 was a new sight to see in itself. The running back saw his snap count percentage jump from a modest 26% in Week 3, to 46% in Week 4.
With those added snaps Samuels did much of what he did during his time in college. The former N.C. State Wolfpack eclipsed nearly 3,000 total yards and 47 total touchdowns while operating out of a plethora of positions during his time as a college athlete.
Samuels touched the ball 18 times as a runner and receiver vs. the Bengals, 11 more touches than he had in the previous three weeks combined. The “running back” also added in three passing attempts for 31 yards. The added benefit of Samuels receiving passing points for a simple pop pass is an easy and efficient way for Samuels to rack up points.
In the midst of the Steelers unleashing their multi-back offense a week ago, some may have been quick to glaze over the damage Samuels did in the passing game. Samuels tied for the team lead in receptions with eight. This is a number that may continue to trend upwards this week regardless, but would certainly be boosted if JuJu Smith-Schuster is unable to suit up for the Steelers on Sunday. JuJu recently deemed himself questionable for Week 5.
The Baltimore Ravens have surrendered an average of 59 receiving yards on 13 total receptions to opponents’ running backs over the past two weeks. Baltimore’s struggles defending the running back position don’t end in the passing game. The Ravens have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs this season.
Should You Start or Sit Jaylen Samuels in Week 5?
Starting a backup running back in my fantasy lineup goes against everything I believe in. However, that’s exactly what I’m doing this week. Samuels has too many things going for him at the moment. His snap count and usage are both trending up, while he is also able to produce points as a runner, receiver, and passer.
Arguably the most important stat of them all involves revisiting Baltimore’s defensive struggles. While the Ravens have allowed starting running backs to average a staggering 29.7 points over the past two weeks, teams’ backup running backs have still managed an impressive 12.9 points during that same span. This means that there will be enough points to go around for Samuels and James Conner in Week 5.
Samuels is a solid flex play on Sunday, and could work his way into low-end RB2 territory by game’s end.