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Analyzing 5th Round Pick Jaylen Samuels: More Than Your Average H-Back

July 5, 2018
7 minutes read
Analyzing 5th Round Pick Jaylen Samuels: More Than Your Average H-Back

The NFL is an elite fraternity in which only the special few get invited. Generally when a player gets drafted in this exclusive fraternity, there is an overwhelming feeling of joy and emotions that follow; the same type that was felt by then rookie Juju Smith-Schuster when he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017. For rookie Jaylen Samuels, his sentiments after being drafted in the fifth round was not one of joy, rather it was one of disappointment; he noted that he was “disrespected”.

When understanding someone like Samuels, the first question to ask is where does he fit positionally?  As a freshman with NC State, he played at halfback, receiver, occasionally at tight end and special teams. At the end of his freshman year, he accounted for just 239 all-purpose yards, as well as four total tackle and a forced fumble.

Samuels’ broke out in his sophomore year gaining first-team All-ACC performer and third-team All-American. During this season he played mainly at tight end and led the nation in receptions at that position. For all his contributions, he was also awarded the Torry Holt Award as the team’s most valuable offensive players. He finished his season with 597 receiving yards on 65 receptions, along with 368 rushing yards on 56 carries and 16 total touchdowns.

Though his junior year he took a small step back with 565 receiving yards and 189 rushing yards, his 55 receptions led his team and he averaged 5.7 yard per carry.  By the time Samuels ended his collegiate career, he had played more career game than any offensive player in school history, tied for sixth all-time with 31 career touchdown.

Considering the many accolades, Samuels has every reason to feel disrespected, as he was arguably the most versatile player available in this year’s NFL Draft. When viewing him on film, I noted that Samuels’ versatility was both his greatest asset and weakness. One can make the argument that someone like Samuels has such a diverse skillset, it would be too difficult to give him an actual position. Perhaps the solution to someone like Samuels, is not to relegate him to just one spot; rather use his versality to his advantage.

Making Plays At Wide Receiver

In this particular sequence against the Louisville Cardinals, the Wolfpack offense is showing a trips formation on the right side with Samuels positioned at the inside slot receiver position. From the snap, Samuels runs a comeback route, and is able to make the reception while evading the Cardinals linebacker in the process. The rest of play is a display of Samuels speed ( ran a sub 4.5 during the NFL Combine), as he is able to outrun the rest of defense for the 75-yard gain. One thing to note about Samuels is his acceleration. Though he is not fast enough to possess breakaway speed, he has enough acceleration to gain substantial yards in open space.

Samuels Making Plays At Fullback

In this sequence against Wake Forest, Samuels is seen positioned shaded outside the left tackle as a fullback. Before the snap, Samuels motions to the right behind quarterback; when the ball is snapped, Samuels takes the handoff and runs in the direction where both tight ends are pulling. Samuels shows some elusivity as he is able to evade two Demon Deacon defenders and get the first down before he is tackled. From viewing his runs on film, it would not do him justice to label him as an h-back; he is capable of running as effectively in I-formation as he would motioning from the tight end or fullback spot.

Samuels Down The Middle

As in the first clip, Samuels is seen in this clip against South Carolina as slot receiver on the left side (the left wide receiver not seen in the clip). When ball is snapped, Samuels runs about five yards before slanting inside. The Wolfpack quarterback is able to spot Samuels down the middle where he throws towards him. Even with the Gamecocks cornerback shadowing him throughout, he is still able to make the reception for the first down. One of the things Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin loves seeing, is receivers making combat catches. Samuels from what viewed was adept to doing so, and would serve well on third-down plays.

Final Assessment

Of all the players that selected by the Steelers in this year’s draft, the player in my opinion with the greatest big-play potential is Samuels. In essence, Samuels is more than just a tight end, fullback or running back; he is playmaker that can plays at any spot he is given. The pending question is how will Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner use him in such a way where Samuel’s ability can shine through? Whether it be third-down situations, goaline or even special teams, Samuels is someone that will be ready to contribute right away, and show that he was worth more than a fifth round selection.

Kelly Anozie

Born and raised Ottawa, Ontario Canada, Kelly is a Steelers contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. Formerly a contributor for SBNation's 'Behind the Steel Curtain'. Kelly can be reached via the Twitter handle @kanozie80

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One Comment

  1. I think Jaylen Samuels was a great value pick. Between him and James Conner, the Steelers will be just fine if Le’Veon Bell does not sign and walks away in free agency next year.

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