The 2020 cornerback class is full of players with family ties in the NFL. At the top, you have Patrick Surtain II, the son of Patrick Surtain. Then, you have Jaycee Horn, the son of Joe Horn. Ifeatu Melifonwu, Rodarius Williams, and Marco Wilson all have siblings in the league as well. The biggest name of these players is Asante Samuel Jr. the son of pro-bowl cornerback Asante Samuel. The product out of Florida State is on the cusp of the first round. Some analysts even have him as their third-best cornerback on their board.
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Name: Asante Samuel Jr.
School: Florida State
Weight: 184 lbs
Man Coverage (9.5/10)
Even though Samuel is undersized, he is outstanding in man coverage. He thrives more in off-man coverage because Florida State didn’t allow him to be closer than about four yards off the line of scrimmage. Samuel has a good feel for where his man is in man coverage, and Samuel stays step-by-step with them. Florida State wasn’t a good squad last year, but they made an excellent decision by letting Samuel be left alone on an island in man coverage. He may be the best man coverage cornerback in the class.
Zone Coverage (6.5/10)
Samuel needs to be in a man coverage defense. He doesn’t have a good feel in zone coverage for where the receivers are, and he seemed way too focused on his zone and covering the backend of it instead of covering the receivers that enter his area. Samuel covers grass instead of players in zone coverage.
Change of Direction (8.25/10)
The grade is this high because he can flip his hips and stay connected with the receiver in man coverage. In zone coverage, he seems heavy-footed and doesn’t cover his receivers in his zone until it’s too late.
Ball Skills (8.25/10)
Some sites like to knock on Samuel a bit for his ball skills. Those sites say he can’t find the ball in the air and is a step too late to the receiver, and it allows for big gains. In reality, he has solid ball skills. While there is still room to grow in this regard, he gets knocked due to his height limitations against taller receivers on the boundary. Most of his production was from knocking the ball out of the receiver’s hands before they completed the catch process.
Samuel is a very fluid cornerback. He is patient in his backpedal and reads the receivers he is tasked with covering in man coverage and can make his transitions look easily. Despite his size, he does a good job of almost always being in a position to break up the ball against the receiver.
Run Support (8.5/10)
The biggest issue in this regard for Samuel is his size. Due to his limited length, receivers can get their hands on him and hold their blocks. Samuel does a good job of staying in a position to have the ball-carrier get close to him, and he can grab an ankle or foot and make a tackle. He knows what lanes to clog in run defense.
Samuel can make a tackle easily when he is heads up on the ball-carrier. He can grab an ankle or foot and hold on for dear life to complete the tackle. With his size, Samuel gives up some additional yardage after he attempts to make the tackle. He could have a bit of an issue in the NFL due to his lack of size against taller and stronger competition.
Route Recognition (8.75/10)
His father played the same position at a high level. His dad taught him about some route combinations and how to react against them. Samuel practically runs the routes for the receiver in man coverage. Being around the game for as long as he has, it is not surprising that one of Samuel’s best traits is his route recognition.
Samuel is very loose and fluid in his backpedal and his transitions to change direction to mirror the receiver in their routes. He is very fluid, and it makes him have an advantage against the receiver right off the bat. The only concern with Samuel in this regard is his long speed, which he seemed to have some struggles with on deep throws.
Even though Samuel shouldn’t have any issues here, he does. In the North Carolina game, Dyami Brown got the best of him a few times, and Samuel would get noticeably upset at himself, even though it was a pitch and catch from Sam Howell to Brown.
Samuel doesn’t appear to have any major injuries to his name.
Samuel is well-deserving of a first-round selection. Whether that happens or not, whichever team selects him in the draft is getting a great man coverage cornerback that can play on the boundary and the slot. Samuel is a technician in his route recognition and man coverage ability. He is very fluid in his backpedal and is a willing run defender and tackler. The biggest question marks come in zone coverage and his lack of length and size at the next level against stronger receivers.
Final Grade (85.5/100): Early Second Round