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NFL Draft 2017 Profile: Wide Receiver/Running Back Curtis Samuel (Cowboys Pre-Draft Visits)

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A closer look at one of the Cowboys 30 pre-draft visits, receiver/running back Curtis Samuel.

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

We continue looking at prospects in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft from a decidedly Cowboys point of view. Taking the Cowboys current personnel, draft position, scheme, and needs into consideration; defensive line, linebacker, defensive backs, as well as complementary offensive pieces at tight end and right tackle, we hope to profile the majority of the potential prospects that could realistically end up as Cowboys within the first two rounds. Once all of the “official visits” leak we’ll add prospects that are possibilities in the later rounds.

Today’s Prospect - (Reported pre-draft visitor)

#4 - Curtis Samuel - Receiver/Running Back - Ohio St. - 5-11, 196

Career Stats:

Games Watched: Clemson, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rutgers

Pros: Explosive athlete with excellent speed (4.31 40) to get to the edge and breakaway. Elusive in space. Quicker and more explosive in and out of his breaks as a receiver than I expected, often leaving cornerbacks flat-footed and lunging. Quick feet and pure speed allow him to gain easy separation. Ran a variety of routes out of the slot (verticals, posts, in-breaking routes, outs, slants). Impressive change of direction with the ability to start and stop on a dime. Does a good job of finding open spaces to make himself available as a receiver once the play starts to break down. Split his time in college between slot receiver and lining up next to the quarterback in shotgun formations, used in motion often to toggle between the two positions, also saw a few touches as a Wildcat quarterback. Projects as a movable piece who can create mismatches at the next level. Speed would imply that he could be valuable as a returner but he only has 27 combined kick/punt returns in three seasons and was only average in that role.

Cons: Not especially dominant or refined at either running back or as a slot receiver. Lacks power in his lower body as a runner and struggles at the line if jammed by bigger, physical cornerbacks. Usually isn’t able to keep his legs driving through contact as a running back. Almost never saw him used in pass protection in the backfield and lack of size indicates that he will likely struggle with it if asked to do so at the next level. Hands are inconsistent as a receiver, struggled against Clemson in particular with one pass bouncing off his hands for an interception. Doesn’t have ideal patience, vision, or balance in tight spaces as a running back. Projects strictly into the slot, not an outside receiver. A lot of his value seems to stem from being good, but not great at two different positions, but how good of a prospect is he strictly as a running back or strictly as a receiver? Less than 300 career touches over three seasons, never reached 100 carries in a season. Only one season where he was a major part of the offense.

Highlights:

Breaks a Tackle, Speed to Edge vs. Oklahoma
60+ Yard Run vs. Clemson
Elusiveness on Swing Pass vs. Michigan
Game-Winning TD Run vs. Michigan
36 Yard TD Run on 4th and 1 vs. Oklahoma
Slant from Slot vs. Oklahoma
In Route from Slot vs. Michigan
Deep Corner from Slot vs. Rutgers

Conclusion: I’ve wanted to add more explosive speed to the offense for a few years now, and while Samuel could certainly be a creative solution to that, I just don’t see the value in spending a top 50-60 selection on a player like this. If he is somehow available in the third round you’d have to consider him since he’d almost surely be the BPA, but that is very unlikely.

He isn’t capable of shouldering a full 20+ carry load as a running back if something were to happen to Ezekiel Elliott, so he is a third down back who can motion to the slot, right?

Well he wasn’t asked to block very often, if at all out of the backfield in college, so how can you really trust him in that regard? Pass-protection is one of the most important responsibilities of being a third down back after all.

On the other hand he isn’t a refined slot receiver either and has inconsistent hands, are you really going to give this guy snaps over Cole Beasley out of the slot?

Or would the plan be to make Samuel a part of the base offense and shift him between the slot and the backfield, mixing and matching between formations with 2 running backs or 4 receivers based on the matchups?

I don’t see that type of creativity coming anytime soon considering the type of offense we’ve seen around these parts for the past few years, and also considering how often the team likes to go with two tight end formations.

So he’d basically be a part-time, gadget player, and I have to to ask, what would be the point?

One of the primary reasons for drafting Ezekiel Elliott is his all-around game, not just his power/speed as a runner, but his ability to block and catch the ball out of the backfield, so why take him off the field on third down just to get someone like Samuel snaps?

The roles Samuel would play (part-time third down back, part-time slot receiver) are already filled by arguably one of the top blocking/receiving backs in the league in Elliott, and one of the top slot receivers in Beasley.

Perhaps this would be a look towards the future as Beasley only has two years remaining on his deal, but spending a second-round pick on a player with no clearly defined role (and who is still in need of development as a slot receiver) with an eye on three seasons from now is a steep price to pay.

To me, selecting Samuel at 60 would be a re-packaging of the same mistakes made as far as drafting tight ends in the second round over the years in an ill-fated attempt to run a “two tight end” base offense. In theory I’m sure it sounds great to the coaches in terms of creating mismatches, but in practicality it just never seems to work out, and Samuel likely won’t be on the field enough to justify such an investment. Much like with Anthony Fasano, Martellus Bennett, and Gavin Escobar, in a vacuum I like this prospect plenty, but I just don’t like his fit with the Cowboys current personnel, I don’t trust the coaching staff to utilize him enough to justify a second-round selection, and I feel the draft picks could be used more efficiently.

You’d likely be spending the 60th pick on a niche player who will be on the field for maybe 20-25 snaps a game, and get maybe 8-10 touches, if that. It’d be the Lance Dunbar-experiment on steroids.

If the team wants a backup to Elliott it’d make much more sense to simply look for a conventional runner in the mid-rounds who has some receiving ability, such as Jeremy McNichols or Wayne Gallman. If they want more speed at receiver it’d make much more sense to look at someone like Carlos Henderson or Shelton Gibson in the mid-rounds, or even Chris Godwin if you’re hell-bent on spending a second-round pick on a receiver.

There’s no reason to spend a premium pick on a guy who isn’t exactly one or the other just because he ran a 4.31 40 when there should be equal or better prospects available at greater positions of need.

Disclaimer:

I do not have access to coach’s film or anything of that nature, I just watch plenty of football (television broadcast version) and go off what I see out of a prospect.

Special thanks to DraftBreakdown for posting the videos that help provide a more in-depth look at this year’s prospects.