NAME: Deebo Samuel
SCHOOL: South Carolina
POSITION: Wide Receiver
CLASS: RS Senior
JERSEY: No. 1
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
WT: 215 lbs
Routes – Smooth and polished route runner. Is a true route salesman that does well to sell his breaks and establish leverage. Knows how to manipulate corners immediately at the snap and separate. Good quickness in and out of his breaks. Nuanced and alters his tempo effectively. Savvy to find space against zone. Sudden ability to change directions.
Hands – Plenty of examples where Samuel plucks the football firmly away from his frame. Has the knack for an acrobatic reception but is guilty of the occasional drop. Never fights the ball and is able to extend in any direction to bring in the football.
Ball Skills – Finds the football effectively and adjusts to its trajectory. Has an impressive above-the-rim game for his size despite modest hops. Illustrates outstanding body control and the ability to make late adjustments to the football. There are times where his lack of length and catch radius limits him in contested situations.
YAC Ability – Has exceptional field vision to find space and win after the catch. Makes dynamic cuts and is decisive with the ball in his hands. Tacklers have a tough time squaring him up in space. Quick, elusive and agile as a runner. Willing to be physical and compete for yards after contact. Effective taking handoffs and in the return game.
Release – Smooth out of his stance and knows how to reduce his surface area and deploy a variety of jab steps, footwork and body fakes to beat press coverage. Has enough speed but isn’t overly explosive to truly stress corners to turn and run with them. Separates rapidly in quick game.
Play Speed – Demonstrates good play speed but isn’t a threat to consistently blow the top off the secondary. Runs routes with great tempo and timing. Smooth runner with easy acceleration but he isn’t a true burner.
Blocking – Has plenty of positive reps where he frames his opponents and gets his hands fit on the inside of his frame but he isn’t consistent. Can be sloppy with technique and use his shoulders to connect. Can stand to be more consistent following the football and looking for work.
Play Strength – Is assertive in terms of physicality as a runner and in the contact window. Highly competitive despite having some limitations in terms of size and length. Doesn’t always get his frame established at the catch point to take advantage of his hands/ball skills.
Versatility – Capable of winning outside or from the slot with playmaking upside to every level of the field. Has been effective in the return game and taking handoffs on jet sweeps. Has 2 career passing attempts and both went for TDs so throwing isn’t foreign to him. Can help a team in numerous ways in any scheme.
BEST TRAIT – Competitive Toughness
WORST TRAIT – Catch Radius
RED FLAGS – 2017 fracture fibula, battled hamstring injury in 2016
Samuel has been victimized by poor quarterback play at South Carolina but still showcased an exciting skill set. An outstanding route runner to all levels of the field, Samuel is a fit for any scheme with the upside to play outside and from the slot. His blend of ball skills and post-catch ability make him an intriguing weapon. By year three, Samuel has the upside be a prolific top-3 option for a productive NFL passing offense that makes plays in a a variety of ways.
Separation Quickness – Explosive player who gets to top speed very quickly. Accelerates away from coverage to create space for throwing windows. Some deceleration at the top of his routes that makes him easier to mirror out of the break for quicker corners. Flashes of varying speed at the top of the route can catch off-coverage corners napping.
Ball Skills – Difficult to evaluate. Granted, Samuel is not going to make a living off adjusting to off-target throws down the field, but he dealt with inaccurate quarterbacking his entire career at South Carolina, and there were definitely flashes of strong snags outside his frame. Has made some one-handed grabs that are highlight reel worthy. Will drop a few here and there, usually looking to run before it’s secured.
Speed/Burst – Didn’t appear quite as explosive this season after breaking his ankle early in 2017. Not a true burner, but has enough speed to get on top of cornerbacks on vertical patterns. Has shown ample ability to be a home run threat after the catch, running away from defenders for big plays. Great initial burst, but no second gear and small stride lengths don’t eat up cushions quickly.
Route-Running – Adept route runner who wins early and late in routes. Gets his head around out of the break and finds the football. Has run the full route tree at South Carolina and knows how to adjust his patterns and sit down in the soft spots against zone. Comes back to the football with awareness of defenders around him. Vs man coverage needs to be more physical and better with his hands to work over contact down the field.
Contested Catch – Maybe the degree of difficulty on contested catches this season was too great, but Samuel didn’t make many of them. Granted, the few opportunities I saw weren’t tremendous chances, but his lack of catch radius and top-notch high point ability are obvious. That said, he showed exceptional strength, positioning and ball skills in 2016 and in his two pre-injury games in 2017, so perhaps his contested catch ability just wasn’t unlocked this season? Want to see him in these situations at the Senior Bowl, but natural limitations make it hard for me to project it as an area of excellence in the NFL.
YAC – Outstanding after the catch. Quick acceleration, elite contact balance and the will to always finish forward. Constantly puts his shoulder down and looks to dish out punishment. Will not go out of bounds without a fight. Competitive drive is impressive, yet constant awareness of the sticks and will reach the line to gain by any measure necessary. Was incredibly elusive in space in 2016 and early 2017, less so this season in his return to action. Experience as an elite return man aids him in this area as well.
Releases – Rarely hung up against press coverage and consistently gets off the line of scrimmage clean. Could stand to vary his releases more and add some more deception, but shows terrific quickness and foot speed to force corners to open before they can land their hands. Won’t chew up off coverage or threaten corners with great speed off the snap.
Blocking – Surprising lack of desire and physicality as a blocker. Hard to understand given how exceedingly physical he is after the catch with the ball in his hands. Was it not taught/encouraged heavily there? There are reps where his strength and tenacity come out as a blocker, but too few and far between. Does have a couple peel-back blocks that are sweet.
Competitive Toughness – I’m not sure what to do with the lack of effort as a blocker, but other than that you’d think the guy considered a football game a war zone. Takes every physical challenge personally, runs through contact constantly and plays with an edge.
Athleticism/Size – Lacks height and length, but thickly built with a super muscular frame. 215 is too heavy for him, should drop 10 pounds if he weighs in that heavy. Was more explosive as a sophomore when he looked lighter. Strong athlete who needs to test well to keep his stock up, but probably won’t hit any elite numbers at the Combine.
BEST TRAIT – YAC
WORST TRAIT – Blocking/Contested Catch
RED FLAGS – Broken lower leg suffered against Kentucky in Week 3 of 2017 season.
Coming into this season, I really only had less than three full games in 2017 and a strong sophomore season the year prior to evaluate Samuel on, after he broke his leg early in the campaign. He was exceptional on tape in every game I’ve watched – impossible to tackle after the catch, mossing corners down the field and showing top-notch speed and acceleration.
This season was a good year for Samuel, but not up to those standards. Granted, the quarterback play was terrible, but he didn’t make quite as many outstanding plays over the first half of the season, and struggled to consistently gain the kind of separation he had in the past. Late in the year things seemed to click again, as Samuel ate up defenses after the catch and started to look more like his old self.
As for his NFL projection, Samuel needs to test well or he could be pigeonholed as just a slot, which will hurt his draft stock. He has enough traits to play outside, but is there one he can really hang his hat on? I think he’s outstanding after the catch and a good route-runner, but he does project as more of a high-caliber complementary piece in an offense rather than a feature weapon.
Route Running –Effective and impressive at the line of scrimmage in efforts to create space and defeat press. Quick to climb the route stem and plays with shiftiness prior to his breaks. Does well to sell a false break before gearing down and driving out of his cut.
Hands –Doesn’t have the softest of hands but concentration is good and allows for some tough catches, either in tight spaces or in high point situations. Does well to tuck the ball away quickly, diminishing odds of a defender getting a hand to bat the ball out.
Contested Catch Ability –Hand-eye coordination stands out as an impressive quality. Carries weight well and has some thickness to his frame, which helps him win positioning when he’s collisioned at the catch point. That said, catch radius is limited and isn’t going to dominate in this situation.
Run After Catch Ability –Blend of speed, short area quickness and a well built frame pose challenges for tacklers in the open field, capable of running around or through defenders. Has very good contact balance and shows ability to absorb a hit and recollect himself.
Football IQ –Would love to see him re-adjust how he addresses the football in some cases, will drift too far back into the LOS and open window for defenders to come through his frame and disrupt the pass. Has had success navigating the boundary as a tight window receiver.
Vertical Receiving –Most effective on post routes he can run underneath, size limitations can creep up when he’s tasked with playing back to the football on vertical throws. Has good speed and the needed release skills to quickly stack up defenders.
Change of Direction Skills –Shifty and sudden. Can dart in and out of spaces effectively and will jitterbug through traffic, cutting and forcing missed tackles along the way. Carries speed well through his hard cuts and sustains separation on steep angles.
Speed –Play speed is excellent. Zero to sixty acceleration is effective against most comers and allows for separation if able to stack the route immediately. Play-making ability shines in the open field when able to open his strides and eat up space.
Competitive Toughness –Has some intermittent lags in effort but by and large pushes through the rep. Has a huge impact in the return game and will hold added value as a special teams ace in addition to snaps on offense. Pretty potent pop in pads thanks to leverage/thickness.
Blocking Ability –Has laid some booming hits on defenders in the secondary courtesy of peel back blocks when ball carrier breaks contain. Doesn’t have a great deal of length to stack corners on the boundary but short area quickness provides enough mirror skills to be effective.
BEST TRAIT – Change of Direction Skills
WORST TRAIT – Durability
BEST FILM – Clemson (2018)
WORST FILM – Georgia (2018)
RED FLAGS – Durability
Deebo Samuel is a potent weapon with the football in his hands, he’s effective in winning against press coverage, has the speed to strain off coverage and is sudden and creative after the catch. That said, Samuel projects best into an offense that can feature him in additional ways, whether that’s from the slot, as a move/chess piece and especially in the return game. Not a volume receiver but a speedy threat that will hold secondaries honest. Health willing, a big play creator.