Every year there’s a prospect who toils in relative obscurity for years before the draft process gets into full swing. Then he takes advantage of the opportunities offered and manages to raise his profile and draft stock on the national stage.
This year that player might be Cameron Sample, the defensive lineman out of Tulane.
As a (relatively) undersized prospect on a small school without gaudy production numbers, Sample isn’t going to get much national buzz. But he got his chance to introduce himself to the national audience at the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl. Sample was a wrecking ball whenever he was on the field, seemingly everywhere and winning just about every match-up throughout the week of practices and in the game. Given that the Senior Bowl is the only significant event of the 2021 draft process, a strong performance there could carry significant weight around the NFL.
Prospect: Cameron Sample
Games Watched: vs. Florida International (2019), vs. Central Florida (2019), vs. Southern Methodist (2019), vs. Navy (2019)
Games Played: 41
Tackles For a loss: 20.5
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 7
Games Played: 11
Tackles For a loss: 7.5
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 1
Best: Leverage, power, athleticism, hand usage, disruption
Worst: Size, length, lower body fluidity
Projection: An primary interior defensive lineman with starting upside in a one-gap defense.
Tulane defensive lineman Cameron Sample is a compact defender with the athleticism and power to be a regular player on an NFL defensive line.
Sample features natural leverage and lower-body flexibility, which he uses to maximize good play strength and explosiveness. Sample times snaps well and fires out of his stance, consistently playing with good knee bend and hip level. That lower body flexibility, combined with his 6-foot-2 frame, allows him to get under blockers’ pads, controlling them or driving them back, as the situation demands.
Sample is a disruptive pass rusher, using his strength and leverage to win as a power rusher, routinely driving blockers into the backfield. But he isn’t just a power rusher, and displays varied and nuanced hand usage in his pass rushing moves. Sample plays with a plan, setting blockers up to expect power or speed, only to counter with the opposite. He makes good use of a club move to keep blockers from locking in on him, allowing him to use a rip or push/pull move to get past them.
He is also a reliable run defender, able to control blockers at the point of attack. Sample is able to hold blocks to force outside runs to the sideline or stack and shed those blocks to make a play on the ball carrier. He shows good awareness as a run defender, tracking the ball in the backfield and reacting quickly to misdirection or playfakes. Finally, he plays with great toughness, consistently hustling in pursuit of the ball carrier.
Sample’s build is such that teams who ask their defensive linemen to routinely two-gap or take on double teams would likely want to look elsewhere. He doesn’t have the size needed to be a “classic” block-eating 3-4 lineman, and adding that mass could compromise his athleticism. Likewise, Sample doesn’t quite have the length or lower-body fluidity to be a regular player off the edge.
Overall Grade: 7.7 - This player has the athleticism and technique necessary to be a regular contributor early in his career, though he lacks true scheme versatility.
Cam Sample projects best as an interior defensive lineman in an attacking “multiple” defense.
Sample is a compact, athletic, and powerful lineman who is capable of disrupting both the run and the pass. He times the snap well, explodes out of his stance, plays with good leverage, has heavy, active hands, and has great competitive toughness, all of which should make him a problem for offensive linemen when allowed to shoot gaps.
Sample’s blend of strength, leverage, and athleticism allowed him to play all over the Tulane defensive line, from 7-technique defensive end to nose tackle. However, he will likely find a home around the B-gap at the NFL level as a 5, 4i, or 3-technique defensive tackle. He could move to the edge or 1 (or 0) - technique on occasion to exploit mismatches, but he should be at his best as a one-gap penetrator. While Sample doesn’t quite have the length or athleticism to be a true defensive end, he could also be a useful piece for defenses who ask their defensive linemen to execute stunts and twists.
Sample already has solid technique and good understanding of how to rush with a plan, as well as good awareness as a defender, which should shorten his learning curve heading into the NFL. His issues could come with adjusting to the strength and speed of NFL offenses after a collegiate career at Tulane, but he acquitted himself well at the Senior Bowl.