2021 NFL Draft Profiles: What Could Asante Samuel Jr. Bring to the Jaguars' Defense?

The Jaguars added to their cornerback room through free agency, but could FSU's Asante Samuel Jr. convince them to add even another player at the spot?
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The 2021 NFL Draft season is upon us and the first wave of free agency is now over. Now, scouts, coaches, and general managers will hit the road as all eyes will turn to the draft.

Among the 32 teams building their rosters to compete for the next Lombardi Trophy is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who hold 10 picks in this season’s draft -- including the No. 1 overall pick. The Jaguars are entering a new era under Head Coach Urban Meyer, and the 2021 draft will serve as a catalyst to the Jaguars’ rebuild moving into the future.

As we march closer and closer to April’s draft, we will look at individual draft prospects and how they would potentially fit with the Jaguars. Instead of looking at any negatives, we are going to look at what the players do well and if they could match what the Jaguars need at the specific role or position.

In this edition, we review Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. The son of former All-Pro and Super Bowl champion cornerback Asante Samuel, what does the younger Samuel bring to the next level?

Overview

A four-star recruit out of high school, Samuel Jr. received offers from countless programs. He eventually committed to FSU over programs such as LSU, Michigan, Alabama, and Ohio State (during Urban Meyer's tenure) and went on to start over 20 games at cornerback for the Seminoles. 

Samuel Jr. played from the start, appearing in 12 games as a true freshman and starting three. He recorded nine pass deflections in his time as a spot starter and backup, a sign of things to come over the next two years.

Samuel started 12 games for FSU as a sophomore in 2019, recording 48 tackles, 15 pass deflections (second-most in ACC), and one interception. As a result, he was named Third-Team All-ACC. 

In his junior season in 2020, Samuel once again stepped into the year i a starting role and thrived. He played in eight games and recorded 31 tackles, nine pass deflections, a team-leading three interceptions, one forced fumble, and one tackle for loss. 

What Asante Samuel Jr. Does Well

While FSU's defense and overall football program have hit rock bottom in recent years, the Seminoles could always rely on the competitive Samuel Jr. There aren't many cornerbacks in this class who are better at fighting at the catch point for the football than Samuel, which speaks volumes about his tenacity considering his 5-foot-10, 180 pound frame. Samuel recorded a stupendous 33 pass deflections in 32 career college games, a testament to his ability to disrupt at the catch point and be a pesty threat around the football. 

Samuel will also impress teams with his click and close ability. He can drive on a route instantly, flying downhill with aggression but also enough control to not overplay the route. His foot quickness is likely his top overall trait, but he also adds to this strength by rarely playing off-balance. His change of direction and overall coordination are both eye-popping at times. Overall, there are zero questions about his ability to move with receivers during the phase of the route or his ability to recover. 

As mentioned with the pass deflections, Samuel is frequently around the ball. Add four career college picks to his 33 pass deflections and he recorded 37 ball disruptions in his college career, averaging over one per game. He has natural ball skills, timing his jumps well and showing off terrific hands. Despite his less than prototypical height, he plays jump balls extremely well thanks to his willingness to fight for the ball and his confidence in his own ability. 

As a tackler, Samuel brings more than one would expect from a cornerback of his size. He often showed a willingness to take on receivers and running backs of much greater size in open space, never shying away from contact and frequently showing the technique needed to bring down larger opponents. He can be trusted to make tackles both on the boundary and in the box as a slot player.

How Asante Samuel Jr. Would Fit With the Jaguars

If the Jaguars had to play a game today, they could probably survive with their current group of cornerbacks in Shaquill Griffin, CJ Henderson, Sidney Jones, and Tre Herndon, they would be fine. But that doesn't mean the Jaguars can't add another cornerback to the group, especially considering none of those corners is quite the style of Samuel. 

Samuel isn't just a slot cornerback -- he can win on the outside at the next level -- but for Jaguars purposes he could probably thrive as a nickel defender to start his career. The Jaguars don't have a bonafide nickel corner in place and have the flexibility to draft one, but they also have in-house options. Herndon flashed at that position last year, while Jones played it for the Eagles in 2018 and Henderson has the skill set to potentially move inside. 

With that said, Samuel's play style and traits suggest he may be better off in a scheme that doesn't ask for a lot of coverage. He had the ability to do it at FSU but I am not sure it is going to be his game at the next level. Regardless, the Jaguars have no players with his lever of twitch in the secondary outside of Henderson, but Samuel has a better track record of ball production. 

Overall, Samuel could likely function well within the confines of the Jaguars' scheme. He is athletic, has ball skills, and is a physical player. The need may not meet the value, but he makes sense from a fit perspective. 

Verdict

If the Jaguars want to draft Samuel, it would have to be at pick No. 33 and maybe No. 45, but the latter seems unlikely at this point. His talent would merit the pick and his long term upside may be greater than that of Jones, so it wouldn't be hard for the Jaguars to justify the selection.

The Jaguars have bigger needs than cornerback, but it is hard to imagine there are many players more talented than Samuel when they are on the board in round two.

For all of our 2021 NFL Draft profiles, click below.