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Is Asante Samuel Jr. a cornerback the Steelers should target in the first 2 rounds?

For teams who are looking for a cornerback in the 2021 NFL Draft, Asante Samuel Jr. might be a prospect to keep an eye on.

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at a cornerback in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their defensive back depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.

Not really conducive to getting a top tier prospect, but after players like Patrick Surtain, there are a lot of talented defensive backs who could be available to the Steelers at pick No. 24.

There is the chance the Steelers choose to take a cornerback to bolster their depth at the position in 2021, and if Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. is available when the Steelers pick, is he an option as a first round talent? If not the first round, in Round 2?

I did some digging on Samuel, and put together a brief synopsis of the kind of player he is, and will be when becoming a professional. Below you’ll see draft profile breakdowns, film room breakdowns and game film for you to enjoy.

Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Samuel. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!

Let us know your thoughts on Samuel in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.


Draft Profiles

The Draft Network

The son of four-time NFL Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel, Asante Samuel Jr. enters the NFL after a strong career in the ACC on a struggling Seminoles defense. Samuel Jr. is a touch undersized, but he is outstanding in man coverage where his natural pattern matching instincts, loose hips, and quick feet make him tough to separate from. Despite not having ideal size, Samuel Jr. is a competitive run defender and tackler that gets his work done and isn’t a liability. While his frame may suggest to some that he’s slot only in the NFL, he’s in the mold of a Brandon Flowers/Denzel Ward and fully capable of playing wide in the NFL like he did in college—although he does have some experience in the slot. Where Samuel Jr. has room to grow is in his zone coverage reps and ball skills. He played mostly man coverage in college and he isn’t nearly as comfortable in zone reps. From a ball skills perspective, he isn’t consistent finding the ball in the air and getting his head around, creating issues when challenged with his back to the line of scrimmage. Samuel Jr. has the potential to start at the next level for a defense that plays a lot of man coverage and is willing to move him around to maximize his strengths.

Ideal Role: Starting outside cornerback that can also play in the slot in a defense that features plenty of man coverage.

Scheme Fit: Man-heavy defensive scheme.

NFL.com

Cornerback with NFL bloodlines and disruptive strength to make contested catches a true challenge for wide receivers. Samuel has good feet, but average size and transition burst to shadow breaks. He allowed too many catches in front of his face, especially early in the 2020 season. He plays with good technique in closing out and crowding receivers headed down the field but has a tendency to go overboard when face-guarding, turning his coverage into flags. He has the traits and talent to turn some catches into incompletions with a change in approach. Samuel has nickel talent, but might just be average as a pro.

Strengths

  • Well-built with above-average lower-body strength.
  • Controls footwork from pedal for quicker click-and-close.
  • Good body balance for sudden change of direction against intermediate routes.
  • Very physical when closing distance and crowding receiver.
  • Makes sure to feel the receiver before turning to find the football.
  • Twitch for more plays on the football if he squeezes routes a little tighter from off-man.
  • Treats battle for catch space like a fist fight.
  • Play strength mitigates lack of desired size.
  • Works at keeping route from working easily across his face.
  • Tackles receivers quickly after catch.

Weaknesses

  • Doesn’t get eyes on quarterback often enough for coverage clues.
  • Opens hips early, allowing route runner the advantage.
  • Brief stall to drive from the top of his drop.
  • Too grabby and undisciplined with back to the ball.
  • History of pass interference penalties, with many of them unnecessary.
  • Average lateral burst in transitions and long speed deep.
  • Needs to get off receiver’s run block sooner.
  • Inconsistent running feet through the tackle.

Pro Football Network

  • Position: Cornerback
  • School: Florida State
  • Current Year: Junior
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Weight: 184 pounds

Positives: Athletic, feisty cornerback with terrific ball skills. Displays outstanding awareness, quickly picks up coverage assignments, and effectively reads and diagnoses the action. Fluid pedaling in reverse, smooth flipping his hips, and has a burst of speed running downfield with opponents.

Gets his head back around and positions himself against receivers to break up throws. Stays on the receiver’s hip out of breaks, possesses an explosive closing burst, and quickly gets to the action. Effectively times and anticipates his pass defenses. Physical and plays bigger than his listed size.

Negatives: Gets a little grabby at times, which will result in penalties at the next level. Not a stout tackler and comes with a slight build. Lack of height will create mismatch problems for him.

Analysis: Samuel possesses the athleticism, speed, and ball skills for the next level and comes with great bloodlines. He’s a terrific cornerback with height limitations that I expect will pigeonhole him to nickel packages on Sundays.


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