Eagles Draft Profile: CB Asante Samuel Jr.
The name Asante Samuel brings up some fond memories for me as a young Eagles fan. While he only played in Philadelphia from 2008-2011, Asante joined the Birds at the peak of his career and earned Pro Bowl honors in three straight seasons. His 23 interceptions in Philadelphia tie him for 10th all-time in franchise history despite his short tenure with the team.
If you look at the Eagles’ starting cornerbacks since Asante Samuel’s departure, you’ll notice a rotating door of highly-paid potential stars who turned out to be complete busts. Guys like Cary Williams, Byron Maxwell, Nolan Carroll, and, of course, Nnamdi Asomugha all signed “lockdown cornerback contracts” and were massive disappointments in their role.
The front office’s latest acquisition of Darius Slay seems to finally fit the mold of a reliable number one corner, but the position opposite him still requires an upgrade. Fortunately, this year’s draft class offers terrific value on Day Two, and the “second-tier” of cornerbacks could produce some future NFL starters. Last week, I spotlighted Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II (my #5 CB) as a viable choice on Day Two of the draft. However, Asante Samuel Jr. is in a tier of his own just above the second wave of defensive backs. Even though scouts will question his size to play outside cornerback, I have the Florida State product ranked as a borderline first-round pick with the versatility to be a consistent starter on the outside or in the slot.
- Height: 5-10
- Weight: 184 pounds
- College: Florida State
- Class: Junior
- Strengths: Cerebral defender, quick and calculated from play recognition to attacking catch points, excellent balance to maintain speed while changing direction in man coverage
- Weaknesses: Height/length to play on the outside, can struggle to get around receivers on runs/screens, above-average tackler but gets taken out of too many plays, deep ball tracking ability
- Draft Projection: Late 1st-Round/Early 2nd-round
The four-star recruit from St. Thomas Aquinas, aka Florida’s high school football factory, became a certified ballhawk over his three seasons for the Seminoles. His defensive leadership and electric playstyle flashed as a rare bright spot in an otherwise forgettable stretch of seasons for Florida State. In 2019, Samuel Jr. was the only Power 5 defender with 14 passes defended and over 45 tackles. He continued his All-ACC play into 2020 by recording eight interceptions plus five passes breakups on just 32 targets.
- Asante Samuel Jr. in 20 games started since 2019:
- Targets: 99
- Rec %: 53.5
- PBUs: 14
- INTs: 4
- TDs: 3
- Passer Rating: 65.68
Asante Samuel Jr. is a carbon copy of his dad at 5-foot-10 and weighing 185 pounds. Not only does he carry the same physical frame as his father, but Junior also possesses many of the same traits that allowed Asante Samuel Sr. to play in the NFL for 11 seasons. His son displays that same balance and fluidity in man coverage, allowing him to maintain speed while effortlessly changing direction. He’ll stay in the hip pocket of just about any receiver but struggled at times when tracking deep balls. However, Samuel Jr. makes up for those lapses by always remaining active throughout the catch process. He only allowed one reception with two forced incompletions on seven targets of throws over 20 yards last season.
Samuel Jr. separates from his dad’s skillset through his strength as a tackler and run defender. He’s one of the draft’s scrappiest players and proved to be a very reliable tackler for a smaller cornerback. He’s fearless in run pursuit and has no problem taking on much larger ballcarriers. His size does become a disadvantage when it comes to shedding blocks as Asante will get taken out of plays by bigger receivers on outside runs or bubble screens.
His play strength certainly isn’t a liability, but his smaller frame will require some technical work to become even more effective getting around blocks in run support. Another area I see as a potential weakness for Samuel Jr. is his ability to play physical press-man coverage in the NFL. He has the speed and quickness to hang with NFL-caliber receivers but got tossed around at the line of scrimmage occasionally in college.
If Asante Samuel Jr’s size is the central area of concern heading into the NFL, then sign me up for an early second-round steal. A slightly smaller frame doesn’t seem like a debilitating factor for a guy whose dad became a two-time Super Bowl champion playing at the exact same height and weight. This cornerback class is the first of its kind in that several players have fathers who were former NFL stars. While Asante Samuel Jr. isn’t getting the first-round recognition that Patrick Surtain II or Jaycee Horn are receiving, his football background and pedigree seem like one of the safer bets you can make on draft day.
Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY SPORTS