The 2021 NFL Draft looks to have a very solid cornerback class. There are three players who each have the chance to hear their name called in the top half of the first round. Behind them there is another eight or so corners who could be drafted by the end of the third round. But even with a top 10 that is that deep and talented, one name jumps off the depth chart.
That would be Asante Samuel Jr., son of former New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel. The elder Samuel was an excellent player, earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors over the course of his career. He was also a consistent thorn in the side of the New York Giants.
The Giants could also use an upgrade at both the outside cornerback and slot corner positions.
Could we see a strange type of irony and see the son of the man who so often frustrated Eli Manning playing for the Giants?
Prospect: Asante Samuel Jr.
Games Watched: vs. Boise State (2019), vs. Louisville (2019), vs. Miami (2020), vs. North Carolina (2020)
Games Played: 31
Tackles For a loss: 3.0
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 29
Games Played: 8
Tackles For a loss: 1.0
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 6
Best: Man coverage, zone coverage, quickness, agility, feet, hips, awareness
Worst: Size, run defense
Projection: A starting corner, or slot corner, with scheme flexibility.
Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr. is a quick, agile, and versatile cover corner prospect. Samuel Jr. typically aligned as an outside cornerback in Florida State’s defense, playing on both the left and right, and has lined up in the slot as well.
Samuel has remarkably quick feet and fluid hips with excellent change of direction skills. He has the ability to play close to the line of scrimmage in tight man coverage as well as in off-man or zone coverage. Samuel Jr. is able to use his quick feet and fluid hips to quickly get in phase with his receiver and stay with them throughout the route. He also shows a good ability to quickly close receiving windows when in off or zone coverage. Samuel Jr. shows good awareness and discipline picking up and passing off receivers when in zone coverage.
He has a good understanding of offensive concepts, anticipating and navigating potential responsibility conflicts.
Samuel does a good job of high-pointing the ball, with solid timing and range to attack the ball at its highest point as well as play receivers hands. He doesn’t come down with many interceptions, recording nine in his college career, but he is adept at breaking up passes at the catch point.
Samuel is simply not a factor in the run game. While he doesn’t make “business decisions,” and is a willing tackler, he is just not very good in this area. His angles to the ball are suspect at best, and his tackling is very poor. Samuel never seems to properly break down, drive through the ball carrier, and wrap up. Instead he is content to limit himself to lunging shoulder checks to try and bring down ball carriers. Combined with his poor angles, Samuel’s poor tackling form makes him ineffective at best.
Samuel Jr. also lacks ideal size and long speed. While he was able to play outside at the collegiate level, he could fall below some teams’ thresholds for an outside corner and be looked at exclusively as a slot corner.
Overall Grade: 7.9 - Samuel Jr. has the traits to allow him to start in the NFL. He might be somewhat limited by his measurables, but he should be able to find a home in man or zone-based schemes.
Asante Samuel Jr. projects as a starting corner at the NFL level, whether he lines up as an outside or slot corner.
He has very quick feet and fluid hips, allowing him to stay with most wide receivers throughout their routes in man coverage. Samuel is able to use that quickness and agility to avoid other players on the field and stay in phase through man-beater concepts which are designed to use rub routes to force separation.
Likewise, he has good awareness and discipline in zone coverage. He does a good job of reading quarterbacks’ eyes to lead him to the ball, with his quickness and short-area explosiveness allowing him to close passing windows. That same awareness and football IQ shows up when defending screen plays, as Samuel was able to break up several attempted screens in the backfield.
Samuel Jr. does a good job of playing the receivers’ hands at the catch point, as well as showing a surprising leaping ability to compete with taller receivers when high-pointing the pass.
Samuel’s run defense will be frustrating for coaches. While he isn’t an unwilling run defender, he is poor at taking on blocks, as well as a poor tackler. That being said, his coverage ability more than makes up for any deficiencies in run defense. Samuel Jr. might not be a true ballhawk, but his ability to break up passes could create turnover chances for opportunistic teammates.
Samuel should get the chance to compete for a starting job at outside corner, but if his size proves to be an issue against larger receivers he should be able to transition into a full-time slot role without issue.