Look up Jaylen Samuels and odds are, each site will show a different position. Running back. Fullback. Tight end. In his press conference, James Saxon was jokingly asked if Samuels was going to play safety because of the newest pick’s defensive background.
The truth? Samuels will help the team in a variety of ways, though what he offered as a runner and receiver is what got him drafted by the team.
“Kid is very talented, multi-purpose kid,” Saxon said. “He’s done a lot of different jobs He’s going to get every opportunity once he comes here to do a lot of different jobs. Looking forward to get this kid on the grass.”
Over his career at NC State, he caught 201 passes and carried the ball 182 times. Last season, he had three more rushes than receptions – 78 vs 75 – with big performances in each category throughout the season. Against South Carolina, he caught 15 passes and a touchdown. Against Pittsburgh, he rushed for a pair of scores.
Saxon confirmed he is viewed as a running back, not a tight end, when asked what position group he’ll work with in the spring. But the theme of the draft has been versatility and Samuels is capable of wearing plenty of hats. Running, receiving, and being the backup, almost certainly a role on special teams.
That versatility will look to maximize each spot on the 53 man roster and I bet after the draft, that word – versatility – will be one used often by Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin.
It’s no surprise the team went with a back who has size. Pittsburgh almost always looks for larger running backs whether that’s James Conner, Rashard Mendenhall, or Samuels. In our case study of the type of players the Steelers look for, Samuels only missed in one category; that was his bench press, which he missed by only two reps.