The Pittsburgh Steelers selected several very intriguing players during the 2018 NFL Draft and one I’m sure one we’ll be talking quite a bit about this summer when it comes to how he’ll ultimately be used is fifth-round selection Jaylen Samuels, who played his college football at North Carolina State.
Samuels, who measured in at this years scouting combine at 5114, 225-pounds, is considered a very versatile offensive player coming out of college with no true position as he lined up at running back, quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, h-back and fullback during his four seasons at North Carolina State that ended with him rushing for 1,104 yards and 28 touchdowns and catching 202 passes for another 1,855 yards and 19 touchdowns. Following his selection by the Steelers Saturday evening, running backs coach James Saxon made it clear that Samuels will be part of his postilion group initially.
“He’s going to get an opportunity to do everything that we do in our room in terms of being a running back,” Saxon said.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert also made it clear Saturday night that Samuels has upside when it comes to him being used as a traditional running back.
“At the Senior Bowl he really got to concentrate on working as a runner and he did a nice job in the Senior Bowl practices and in the game,” Colbert said. “So his versatility was very attractive at that point.”
After telling the media Saturday evening that Samuels is viewed by the Steelers as a multi-purpose player, Saxon was asked to describe what that term means in today’s NFL.
“He’ll be able to play on third down,” Saxon said. “He’ll be able to catch the ball, create some matchup problems for linebackers. In this game today, third downs, a lot of teams are using a sixth DB to come in the box to cover an athlete and that’s what he is.”
When you watch Samuels’ college tape and especially his highlights on YouTube, you see a Swiss Army knife kind of player and one that had the football put in his hands when lining up at several different positions. He even took several snaps as a wildcat quarterback. His use as a true running back, however, seemed to be limited during his college career and that’s probably because North Carolina State had a few other players who could play the position even better such as Nyheim Hines, who was drafted a round prior to when Samuels was.
It’s hard to find much tape of Samuels pass protecting from the running back position at North Carolina State and if he is going to be a third down running back in the NFL, he’ll certainly need to be able to do that chore when lined up behind the quarterback. Additionally, he’ll likely need to be part of a special teams unit or two in order to make the Steelers 53-man roster in 2018.
Saxon was asked Saturday if he thinks Samuels will be able to contribute any on on special teams with the Steelers.
“I hope so, because Danny [Smith] needs as many as he can get and as soon as a lot of these young guys realize the value of special teams play that can earn them jobs, I’m hoping that he’ll see that and he will be taught that and given an opportunity,” Saxon said.
Saxon was then asked if Samuels played special teams at North Carolina State.
“Not sure,” Saxon said.
For the record, Samuels was credited with five total special teams tackles during his college career and he also returned a few kickoffs last season as well.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin spoke about Samuels hopefully being able to contribute some on special teams.
“I’m also interested in what type of versatility he can display in the team’s game,” Tomlin said. “I would imagine that a guy that has done as much for his college football team as he did is capable of showing a wide variety of skills in that area as well.”
Tomlin was also asked to reveal how he sees Samuels possibly fitting in on offense.
“I think that’s to be determined,” Tomlin said. “And I don’t say that in a negative sense. Boy, he was a versatile guy for them. Kevin [Colbert] spoke to some of it. 70-plus receptions this year, over 200 catches on his career. I think it’s worth noting also that I think that he had 12 touchdowns rushing this year. Some of it as a wildcat runner and so forth, so we’re excited about him and his skill set and maybe the match up issues that he could create.
“He’ll be given an opportunity to be a running back, but obviously he’s a running back who excels and has excelled in the passing game, whether it’s out of the backfield aligned, or out of the backfield in terms of when the ball snaps. So we’re excited about him displaying those skills and others.”