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Could Deebo Samuel Become The Playmaker The Redskins Need?

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Hogs Haven takes a look at 2019 NFL Draft prospects that could contribute to the Redskins

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Deebo Samuel, WR
School: South Carolina | Conference: SEC
Experience: RS Senior | Age: 23
Height / Weight: 6-0 / 210 lbs
Projected Draft Status: Third Round
NFL Comparison: Stefon Diggs

College Statistics

Samuel ended his college career with 148 receptions, 2,076 yards and 28 total touchdowns. His four kickoff returns for touchdowns is tied for the most in SEC history.

Player Overview

Tyshun “Deebo” Samuel is a fifth-year Senior, who came to South Carolina as a 3-star HS recruit.

When healthy, he is a dynamic, versatile athlete, whose special teams ability should help get him on the field early in his NFL career. He displays nice body control and can make extremely athletic catches. He has enough long speed to threaten downfield and is a natural tracking the deep ball.

At his best, Samuel is a mash-up of James Washington’s deep ball tracking skills and former Gamecock’s WR Pharoh Cooper’s abilities as a return man. If everything goes right, he could become a Stefon Diggs level performer. Unfortunately, he also comes with notable medical red flags.

In 2017, Samuel had been one of college football’s biggest stars, until he suffered a broken leg in South Carolina’s third game of the season. First, he ran back the opening kickoff for a 97-yard touchdown in South Carolina’s first game of the season, then returned another 97-yarder the following week against Missouri. In addition to his work on special teams, Samuel proceeded to make several highlight-reel catches during the season’s first three weeks.

Unfortunately, injuries are nothing new to Samuel. A series of hamstring injuries forced him to miss significant time as a redshirt freshman in 2015 and again in 2016. Injuries limited him during each of his first three seasons, and that could certainly affect his draft stock.

In 2018, Samuel was finally able to make it through a full season healthy. He started all 12 regular season games, before electing not to play in South Carolina’s bowl game.

Click this for more on his backstory: Tomorrow Isn’t Promised: The Deebo Samuel Story

South Carolina Wide Receivers = Fourth Round?

Over the past 22 years, the Game Cocks have had just seven receivers drafted before round five, and only three times did a they have a wideout drafted before in the top-100 picks. Each of the last three South Carolina receivers ( Pharoh Cooper, Bruce Ellington, and Ace Sanders) were drafted in Rd4.

Athletic Traits

Listed at 6’0 and 210 pounds, Samuel is compact and strong, with a thicker than average build for a wide receiver. While is play speed is fast, he does not appear to be the type of athlete that will be a top performer at the NFL Combine. In fact, I expect he will measure average or below average in most metrics.

The Film

Deebo Samuel’s highlights are as good as anyone's. In 2017, Samuel returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a score and finished with five catches for 83 yards, including two touchdown receptions in South Carolina’s season opening day win over NC State.

While South Carolina lost big, Deebo was unstoppable against Clemson, finishing with 10 receptions for 210 yards with three touchdowns in the Gamecock’s 56-35 loss to to the Tigers.

The Draft Network’s Brad Kelly summarizes Samuel’s tough match-up against Georgia corner Deandre Baker:

Counting the penalties, Samuel was thrown at 9 times while being covered by Baker and it resulted in 61 yards for the offense. Additionally, there were a few instances when Samuel was open and not targeted, but also plays where he was the primary read and Baker had him covered.

Strengths

  • Playmaker
  • Can add a missing dimension to an offense with reverses, jet sweeps, and WR screens.
  • Can locate and track the ball on vertical routes, and finish the catch in traffic.
  • Smooth and polished route runner.
  • Tough and physical in the open field, and will compete for yards after contact.
  • Brings added value as an NFL team’s primary return specialist.

Weaknesses

  • Injury history
  • Injury history
  • Injury history
  • Somewhat overaged. Born 1/15/96, he is actually 11 months older than JuJu Smith-Schuster.
  • Does not have the size of a prototypical WR1, such as Julio, Mike Evans, or Michael Thomas.
  • He isn’t necessarily a threat to consistently blow by NFL corners or take the top off the secondary.

What others are saying

Over the summer, NFL Network’s Lance Zierlein wrote

What stands out most on tape is his urgency and physicality as a receiver. Samuel wins by working back to the throw, keeping defenders on his hip and finishing catches with vice-grip hands. He also provides plus value after the catch with outstanding vision as a runner and a punishing demeanor that helps him grind out additional yards after contact.

Then, during the season, CBS Sports NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson mocked Samuel 19th overall, explaining

Samuel is a physical receiver who can make contested grabs in the middle of the field or acrobatic catches down the sidelines.

How Would He Fit With The Redskins

In 2018, Josh Doctson’s 499 yards receiving lead all Redskins’ wide receivers. That was the lowest total in the NFL for a team’s top wideout.

One of my favorite players to watch the past two seasons, I believe Deebo Samuel is the best wide receiver to come out of South Carolina since Alshon Jeffery. There’s a real chance Samuel is drafted in the first two rounds if he gets cleared medically. While the talent is there, Samuel’s injuries limited his availability during three of his seasons. Could some NFL teams drop him into Rd4 for it? That remains to be seen. Regardless of when he gets drafted, Samuel should be an immediate contributor in the NFL, with added value as a kick returner and usefulness as a short, intermediate, and down field threat in the passing game.