2017 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Prospect: Curtis Samuel
School: Ohio State
Ht: 5'11" Wt: 197
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Samuel is one of the most exciting players in the country to watch. Because he got stuck behind Ezekiel Elliott, he was moved to receiver so they could get his playmaking ability on the field, but make no mistake, he is a natural running back. The goal was to create ways to get the ball in his hands, much like former teammate, Braxton Miller. As a junior, he saw much more time in the backfield, and while he is still a bit on the slender side for a running back, the ability to make game-changing plays is evident from any spot on the field.
What will get Samuel drafted early is his ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. Like Reggie Bush, he not only has outstanding breakaway speed but also the loose hips and terrific feet to make defenders look foolish in open space. His vision is excellent, and when he sees a crease, he gets to it quickly. I will say he will need reps at the next level to learn to read blocking schemes, but once that happens, this guy has the ability to turn any running lane into a winner. He has room on his frame to add some bulk, but he won't be meant for every running scheme, even if he does. Had Bush been drafted ten years later, I am convinced teams would have found a more appropriate role for him, and that is the same role Samuel will fill. Teams are now taking these undersized backs with experience catching the football and inserting them in spread offenses where the defensive personnel dictates the play. If defenses use a dime package with six defensive backs, the offense can motion the tight end or best blocking receiver inside and run the ball. On the other hand, more base defenses where a linebacker is responsible for the running back result in the quarterback motioning out the running back and exploiting the mismatch in the passing game.
As a receiver, he has his ups and downs. He runs routes like you would expect from a running back. He runs high which results in wasted steps in order for him to break down and change direction. Running routes is a skill that is acquired from years of doing it. It is a combination of setting up defenders while using the least amount of steps to get in and out of breaks quickly. Samuel has the feet to get separation, but when timing is involved, the amount of steps you take is critical. He is much better at running shorter routes like slants and quick outs. He also isn't extremely comfortable catching the ball with his hands. He uses his body far more often, and even when he does extend his arms to the ball, the pass hits his palms too much. Great pass catchers use their fingertips to catch a ball as opposed to their entire hands. This could be a result of having smaller hands. He also doesn't track the ball well on deep routes. Having said all this, he is still much more advanced than most collegiate running backs in all of these areas.
Samuel will have the ability to contribute out of the slot in the NFL. Reverses and quick screens are options to get the ball in his hands, as is using him in the return game. They can also motion him out of the backfield as I mentioned earlier the way the Patriots like to do with Dion Lewis. The Cowboys also have similar success with Lance Dunbar stacking him behind a big receiver in order to get him a free release. In those same spread systems, he will be able to run the ball much more effectively as well. I wouldn't favor putting him in a traditional set where he is going to face seven and eight-man boxes. He needs space to be an impact player. When he does run inside, he needs to learn to play more behind his pads. If he can't, he is sure to take his fair share of punishment from the bigger competition in the NFL. I also don't see him breaking many tackles physically unless he adds some bulk to his lower half.
Overall the game has changed immensely since spread systems started taking over college. While most of those schemes don't translate to the NFL, professional teams are finding ways to take the players that fit in them and carve out a role. H-Backs, slot receivers, and smaller backs like Samuel, are all having more of an impact than ever at the next level. When a player has elite ability, it isn't important to harp on what he can't do as much as finding ways to put him in position to do the things he can. If teams focus on that, Samuel is a candidate to go as early as the end of the first round. Even if not, someone is going to be very happy to get their hands on him on day two.
Compares to (Current NFL Player): Reggie Bush (Buffalo Bills)
- Elite athleticism and speed
- Nightmare to handle in the open field
- Experience as a receiver and return man
- Terrific vision
- Experience in the backfield is limited thanks to playing behind Ezekiel Elliott
- Needs to add bulk no matter what role he is asked to play
- Small hands
- Role will be determined based on the scheme he is drafted into
1)   Ohio State H-back Curtis Samuel is a star, but he's not finished yet   - Sports Illustrated |
2)   Curtis Samuel brings New York state of mind to Ohio State   - ESPN.com |
3)   Ohio State's Curtis Samuel only latest star from famed high school: Bill Livingston (photos)   - ESPN.com |
4)   Curtis Samuel Twitter|
5)   Curtis Samuel Instagram|