I could work out two hours a day, employ the finest trainers, or even convince Willy Wonka to stretch me out a few more inches on the taffy pulling machine – I still won’t be able to dunk a basketball. And yet, this is the time of year we’re inundated with negative takes on world-class athletes. Some are too small, some too slow, and some don’t have a high enough “football IQ”. The criticisms are never-ending.
These analysts (myself included) have been very wrong about many of them in the past, and will be wrong again in the future. But sometimes, a player comes along and throws a wrench into the whole works. After all, how do you criticize a player who can seemingly do anything and everything on the field? Say hello to Jaylen Samuels.
Statistics from sports-reference.com.
Samuels has been labeled as “versatile”, a “swiss army knife” or “a weapon” and his stats prove it all. He did a little bit of everything for the Wolfpack in his collegiate career, with just under 3,000 total scrimmage yards and a healthy 47 touchdowns. Even if you throw out his freshman year – where he only saw 21 touches – he still managed 45 touchdowns in three years. For someone who wasn’t a full-time running back, that’s a lot of TDs.
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Look closely at the mix here, as well. Many of the players we deem “versatile” truly favor one area. Perhaps they are 70% receiver and 30% RB when it comes to touches, but this is not the case with Samuels. His splits are fairly even in each of his three starting seasons. His catch/rush ratio was 65/56 in 2015, 55/33 in 2016, and 75/78 in 2017. That’s right. He caught 75 balls AND rushed it 78 times this past season – over 13 games. If you extrapolate that to 16 games, it would be around 90 catches and nearly 100 rushes.
The stats here don’t even include the few halfback-option passes he’s thrown or his kick returns. Samuels has done it all at the collegiate level.
Here are eight-plus minutes worth of proof that Samuels is just as versatile as advertised. He lines up all over the field; from the backfield, to the tight end position on the line, to out wide. And, more importantly, he can have success from just about anywhere.
I would suggest you try to forget a bit about where he lines up and what position he might play. Instead, focus on what he does with the ball in his hands. He isn’t the fastest and isn’t the shiftiest, but he’s the kind of player who gets positive yardage touch after touch.
As I watch his film, he seems to slide through space, and while he looks dead to rights, he somehow ends up with a five-yard gain. I also like how he rarely seems to take a hard hit, as he’s smart enough to avoid contact when possible. It’s not that he’s afraid of contact – he will lower the shoulder and fight for yards. He’s just not foolish about it. Samuels also shows the ability to use his body as a receiver and knows how to read his blocks and get all the yards he can. He’s flat-out electric with the ball in his hands, and that’s why NC State moved him all over the place – they just wanted to get him the ball. (And hey, how about that quarterback? Is Ryan Finley the best QB you’ve seen or what??)
Before we head on to his measurables, I do want to point out one piece from this film I did not see. I never saw Samuels lay a really good block. Now since he’s really an offensive weapon type, I’m not that worried, but he’s listed as a tight end so I felt I had to mention it.
I know that aspects of this spider graph look great. But what you have to remember about Jaylen Samuels here is that his graph is in relation to others at the tight end position. For a tight end, his agility numbers are very, very good. But you can see that as a tight end, his physical measurements are also very, very bad. See, even his spider graph is versatile! I suggest taking a look at his page at Mock Draftable and look at his graph as it relates to some of the other player groupings. Compared to other ball carriers, for instance, his numbers are basically all middle of the road.
Find more on Samuels on his player page.
One point before we break down his ADP. Samuels was listed as a tight end at the combine, but we are currently listing him as a running back, as he was listed as a halfback during his collegiate career. We’ll have to keep an eye on him to see how he’s ultimately listed – I could easily see him being one of those rare RB/WR dual-eligibility fantasy players.
His current ADP of 231 is about 20 spots lower than it was a month ago. His ranking puts him around the likes of Case Keenum and Chris Ivory. As far as rookies go, he’s currently ranked right around Josh Allen and Simmie Cobbs. So if you like Samuels, you’ll be able to get him fairly cheap. But this (of course) does hinge a bit on who drafts him. Still, I would imagine the best case scenario places him somewhere in the third round or later of rookie drafts.
This is a tough call. Not only am I unsure where to rank Samuels in comparison to other tight ends, I’m not even sure if I should be comparing him to other tight ends. Maybe I should look at him as a halfback. Maybe even a wide receiver. I don’t really know, and neither do the scouts. He’s “too heavy” to be a wide receiver. He’s too short to be a tight end.
But do you know what Jaylen Samuels does? The man plays football. When I watch him on film, I see great drive and great football instincts. He knows how to get a few extra yards every time, how to run routes, and how to run the ball out of the backfield. Samuels just needs the pigskin in his hands and it’s time to go.
And you know what? If I’m hanging out in the third round, and I see Auden Tate and Josh Adams going off the board, I just might be tempted by one “superflex” player like Jaylen Samuels. If there’s one thing I look for above all else in a prospect, it’s if he looks like he knows how to play football. That is Jaylen Samuels in a nutshell – a football player.
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