From now until the 2021 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#26 Asante Samuel Jr./CB Florida State – 5’10, 184
- Very comfortable in off coverage
- Clever player that understands different route concepts
- Good in zone coverage where he can read the QB’s eyes and make plays on the ball
- Solid production
- Good ball skills
- 2020: 108 Coverage Snaps, 0 TD’s allowed, 3 interceptions
- Over reliant on half turn technique
- Frequently targeted on jump balls
- Struggles to get off blocks
- Junior CB from Florida State University
- Son of former All-Pro; Patriots, Eagles and Falcons CB Asante Samuel
- From Sunrise, Florida, attended St Thomas Aquinas High School, and was a 4 star recruit
- 2020 First Team All ACC
- Two year starter for the Seminoles, and started 3 of the last 4 games of his freshman year
- 2020: 22 Solo tackles, 1 forced fumble, 3 interceptions, 6 passes defensed
- 2019: 10th in the nation in passes defensed with 14
- Opted out in November following two cancellations due to Covid-19
Samuel JR had his best game of the year against Georgia Tech in the season opener, where he finished with five tackles, two passes defensed and two interceptions.
On this first clip Samuel JR is playing Cover 3 zone and is responsible for the deep outside third on his side of the field. The receiver initially aligned over him runs a post route, which he sits just off the hash, and the slot receiver runs a wheel. Sims, the Georgia Tech QB is reading the corner and if he follows the post then he will throw to the wheel route. Samuel JR does a great job baiting Sims; squeezing with the post and passing it off the safety and then getting back on top of the wheel to make the pick. Samuel JR shows great awareness and recognition of passing concepts on this play.
Later in the half Georgia Tech had managed to drive down into the redzone but Samuel JR struck again. On this play the Yellow Jackets are running a mesh concept with two receivers crossing underneath the defense. The receivers are looking to either pick off defenders in man coverage or normally sit in a void against zone coverage. Florida State are playing a two deep zone and manage to get good pressure on Sims. Samuel JR does a nice job of first passing off his receiver, and then getting his eyes across the field to find his next threat. He recognizes the crosser and steps in front and then reads Sims’ eyes to pick the ball off.
In the third quarter Georgia Tech targeted Samuel JR down the field on a deep throw to the taller Adonicas Sanders. Samuel JR is playing off coverage and although he is at a size disadvantage he does a good job of playing the ball in the air and forcing the incompletion. Samuel JR like his father, is very comfortable in off coverage. It’s rare to see a CB prospect be this comfortable coming out of college.
Later in the third quarter shows one of the weaknesses of Samuel’s game. He struggles to get off of blocks. This is mostly due to his lack of size and while this is far from the first thing that NFL teams look for in a cornerback it is still an aspect of his game that he will need to improve. Georgia Tech run outside zone to the field towards Samuel JR who is initially aligned out of shot on the #1 receiver. Mason the Georgia Tech RB does a good job getting to the edge but you can see that Samuel JR is blocked from the five yard line into the endzone. Samuel JR has to be more physical and shed the receiver to go make the tackle.
The next clip is from the Seminoles 2019 matchup against Clemson. On the first play of the game Trevor Lawerence throws a deep fade ball to Tee Higgins. The Seminoles appear to be in three deep zone with Samuel JR playing in press technique. Samuel JR was slightly out of phase and unable to make a play on the ball when the much taller Higgins high points it. Admittedly Samuel JR is only a sophomore here and Higgins played very well in his first season with the Bengals however his lack of size is something NFL teams may target.
On the very next play, the Tigers went with some trickery with a HB pass play. Etienne throws the ball outside to Ross who is covered by Samuel. The ball is thrown to the back shoulder. Samuel JR did initially bite on the run fake and ended up trailing Ross when the ball was thrown – he again struggled against a bigger receiver. Another negative trait I’ve noticed is that Samuel JR has overreliance on playing in a half turn. Whilst this technique allows him to read QB and break on passes but can hinder him when defending back shoulder throws or comeback routes where he has to break 180 degrees back out to the sideline.
On this next play, Samuel JR is again playing in a half turn on this three deep coverage against Clemson’s slot fade concept. The ball is thrown underneath to the hitch and Samuel JR comes downhill to make the tackle. Samuel JR certainly isn’t shy of coming down and making a tackle and it’s clear his size does not affect his willingness to show up in the run game. He clearly prefers to use a chop tackle, targeting between the players knee and ankle. Given that most ball carriers are larger than him, you can see why he opts for this technique. This type of tackle can be a bit more hit and miss at the NFL level as the athleticism and change of direction ability of ball carriers increases.
On this final play Samuel JR again makes a good low tackle in space. Florida State is running a 5 man pressure with 2 deep zone behind it. The boundary corner and the single high safety are each playing a deep half. Samuel JR is responsible for defending the flat or the first out route to his side. He does a good job of breaking on the ball and attacking Powell as he emerges from his whip/pivot route. Samuel JR maintains his leverage to bring him down for a short gain.
Projection: Late 1st Rounder.
Samuel Jr. is a talented instinctive corner that reminds me of both his father, in his fondness for off coverage and Ravens corner Marcus Peters with his understanding of route concepts and ability to bait QBs. He may struggle to match up with some of the taller receivers such as Chase Claypool and Tee Higgins but he will generate takeaways which most Defensive Coordinators will tell you they value above all else. Samuel Jr. should be taken late on day one and some mock drafts have the Steelers selecting him at #24. Personally I think they go OL but I certainly would not be disappointed with a Samuel Jr. pick.
Games Watched: Georgia Tech, Clemson (2019), Miami