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NFL Draft 2020: Projecting Stanford Samuels’ game to the NFL

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What’s more important: height or speed?

Syracuse v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

All signs pointed to Stanford Samuels III having a superstar career at Florida State.

Samuels was a legacy recruit of former NFL and CFL cornerback Stanford Samuels and he was a highly rated prospect out of high school. However, things didn’t pan out that way for Samuels III. While he had a solid career in Tallahassee, his early departure is met with apathy by the general fanbase. The story of his on field career at Florida State mirrors his prospects in the upcoming draft. He has a good structure in place for potential success, but lacks the flash and extra gear that turns a solid player into a truly special one.

Athletic Web

It’s hard to encapsulate an entire athlete in a set of data points, but this athletic web does a good job of showing some strengths and weaknesses as a prospect:

The first thing that stands out is Samuels’ length. Secondary defenders in the NFL are getting taller and taller and a 6’2” frame projects nicely. A longer wingspan and longer strides can help make up ground against quicker receivers. In the clip below Samuels is immediately beat off the line by the Syracuse wide receiver; however, he is still able to make a play on the ball using his long arms.

This also allows Samuels to make plays shorter defenders would not make. In this clip, the ULM quarterback places the ball away from Samuels on a post route. Despite giving up inside leverage, he is able to reach in front of the receiver and break up a potential big gain.

Feel For the Game

Growing up a son of a cornerback came with some advantages for Samuels III. He has picked up some of the little things that make a cornerback special. One of those traits is the ability to play the ball in the air.

The old adage of “if he could catch then he would be a wide receiver” is not true for Samuels. He looks natural when trying to make a play on the ball and if he finds himself in good position, he can trick opponents’ eyes into thinking he plays on offense.

Speed

The problem with Samuels’ game is it will be increasingly difficult to get into a good position at the next level. His long limbs make it difficult to quickly change direction - which will be exploited by faster receivers at the next level.

Longer defensive backs make up for this deficiency with burst referred to as “closing speed.” This is an extra gear that allows them to catch up to smaller, quicker wide receivers after the receiver makes the cut in their route. As you can see on Samuels’s player web and in the film, he lacks that extra gear. To say it bluntly, he is slow. A 4.65 second 40 is not going to be good enough to make up for slow changes of direction. It would not be enough pace to make up for it even if there were not problems coming out of the break.

This is why Samuels probably projects better at safety. He will be placed in less one on one situations with speedy wide outs. This change in position adds a different dynamic to Samuels’ game, requiring him to come into the box and make tackles in run support.

Physicality

Samuels III proved in college he is willing to come up and make some open field tackles. The clip below features one of the better tackles of his career. Samuels breaks on the hitch route, driving the receiver back a few yards after contact.

While Samuels comes in a bit high here it is better than a majority of his tackle attempts. He has a tendency to come in low and not wrap up. While this has worked for him so far, Samuels will find himself with a lot of missed tackles if this continues at the next level.

Draft Projection

Stanford Samuels III is an interesting prospect at the next level, with plus size and ball skills; his lack of lateral agility and vertical speed will hamper his opportunities and effectiveness. Because of these factors he is better off switching to safety where athleticism issues can be hidden better in zone coverage. This will force Samuels to develop some extra aggressiveness at the point of attack and hone his tackling form.

These caveats drop Samuels to the lower half of the draft order. If he is brought in by a system that looks to utilize his unique skillset, he has the potential to be a useful role player on a NFL team. However, if Samuels doesn’t grow to fix the gaping holes in his game, he might have trouble making an NFL roster.