Rookie Scouting Report: Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
Weight: 214 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.48 seconds
Vertical Jump: 39.0 inches
Broad Jump: 122 inches
3-Cone Drill: 7.03 seconds
While the big receivers are getting most of the buzz prior to draft season, Samuel may be flying a bit more under the radar than he should. He’s a reliable, slot-heavy receiver who offers stability over the middle of the field. He also returned kickoffs for South Carolina, so he can offer some versatility on special teams as well. His ceiling may not be as high as someone like D.K. Metcalf or Hakeem Butler, but whoever drafts Samuel, they likely know exactly what they’re getting.
He didn’t post gaudy numbers during his time at South Carolina, as he posted career-high marks of 62 receptions, 882 yards, and 11 touchdowns in 2018, his senior year. Prior to that, he only played in three games as a junior due to a broken fibula in the third game of the season. What most remember about Samuel’s production, though, is that it came when it mattered most. He tallied 447 yards and six touchdowns in his final four college games and then went on to dominate at the Senior Bowl practices.
Size/Versatility: 2.0 out of 5 stars
He’s not a particularly big target at 5-foot-11 with just over a 75-inch wingspan (by comparison, Hakeem Butler‘s wingspan is nearly 84 inches), so his quarterback will need to be somewhat precise. The best way to describe him is compact, as there’s a lot of weight in a little area. He’s built proportionally but he’s not long at all. He looks out of place when on the perimeter and even though it’s good that he’s got the experience there, he doesn’t offer much versatility to play all over the field. He can be used on screens and put in motion, so he’s got some versatility, but his size limits the potential.
Route Running/Ability to Separate: 2.5 out of 5 stars
He doesn’t seem to run the full route tree, though the offense seemed somewhat limited in their play-calling. He’s not going to create much space between him and the defender with superior route-running, but rather rely on short area burst and adjusting gears in his route to gain separation. There’s not really any suddenness to his routes, which will turn some teams off, as slot receivers often have that gene. He’s going to struggle with press coverage on the perimeter, which is why I view him as an 70-plus percent slot at the next level. He doesn’t plant his foot and stop on a dime like some receivers his size can do and he will round out some of his routes, though I wouldn’t call his route-running a glaring weakness or anything, though it’s not a strength, either.
Speed: 3.0 out of 5 stars
He has short area burst needed to get open but isn’t someone who’ll fly by you down the sideline. He changes his speeds very well, downshifting when necessary and hitting the burst when he sees a hole. He struggles to get off press and blow by defenders, but when given a clean release, he has enough speed to be considered a threat.
Hands: 4.0 out of 5 stars
He’s got some sticky hands and is very solid at bringing the ball in while moving through traffic. He’s a natural hands catcher who makes it look effortless to haul in passes. He shows the ability to go up and get the ball in contested situations, but that’s not going to be something his future NFL team will ask him to do very often.
Awareness: 4.5 out of 5 stars
He’s a smart receiver who doesn’t make defender aware of when he’s getting the ball, almost going through motions before the ball is about to arrive. He also adjusts well to poorly thrown passes, though his size prevents him from going up and over the defender to snag the ball most times. He’s always going to fall forward for yardage, too. He knows where to sit in zone coverage, highlighting his understanding of where defenders are and where they’re supposed to be. This showed up multiple times in the red zone, as he’d slow his route in-between zones, giving his quarterback an easy target.
After the Catch: 3.5 out of 5 stars
He’s not a wide receiver who’ll just roll up when he’s about to get hit, but he’s also not one who’ll toss defenders off his hip. He’s built solidly with a low center of gravity and has great balance, which allows him to spin out of tackles and rarely get tripped up. You’ll see him bounce off tacklers if they don’t wrap-up properly. He’s not a physical player when the ball isn’t in his hands, but once it is, he’s got plenty of fight to him.
Potential Landing Spot
There may be a team out there who believes Samuel can play anywhere on the field, but I’m going to assume a team drafts him for his slot capabilities and potential on special teams. Some teams that can use a slot receiver include the Colts, Raiders, Redskins, Eagles, and Lions. But one team who it’s easy envisioning taking a shot on the intelligent receiver is the Patriots. Julian Edelman is nearing the end of his career and while most would’ve thought he was a slot-only receiver, the Patriots were able to move him around successfully.
While watching Samuel, I can’t help but think of a mix between Jarvis Landry and Golden Tate. He doesn’t have the stop-and-go ability of Tate but offers more after the catch than Landry. Both players have obviously had a great deal of success in the NFL, but their best work has come from inside the slot. It would be a mistake for a team to draft Samuel and think he can play on the perimeter more than 30 percent of the time, as it’s just not who he is. He’s a smart player who’ll get you some yardage after the catch and allow you to run some trickery out of the backfield.