Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. is no stranger to the spotlight as he heads to the 2021 NFL Draft. After all, his father and namesake is a two-time Super Bowl-winning All-Pro who spent 11 years in the NFL. After his own impressive college career, will he be drafted higher than his father was in 2003?
Asante Samuel Jr. NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Florida State
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 184 pounds
Despite the same name and more than a passing physical resemblance, Asante Samuel Jr. has crafted his own path to the 2021 NFL Draft. The journey began with a successful high school career at Florida powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas. He tasted early footballing success with a 7A State Championship as a sophomore and a junior.
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His role in that success garnered early recruiting attention. A four-star recruit, Samuel Jr. was the 12th ranked player in the state of Florida. Furthermore, he was ranked as the ninth-best cornerback in the nation. He held offers from over 30 teams including Alabama, Notre Dame, Miami, and Florida. Prior to his senior high school season, he committed to Florida State, keeping him close to home.
Although another championship would elude him as a senior, the season saw personal success. Samuel Jr. was named to the All-State First Team after logging 32 tackles and an interception. Showcasing special teams abilities that will become a valuable commodity, he also blocked multiple field goals and point after attempts.
Asante Samuel Jr.’s college football career at Florida State
Asante Samuel Jr. made an immediate impact in a secondary that had lost Derwin James to the NFL Draft. The Florida State cornerback made his debut against Samford, played 12 games, and started three of the final four. Despite his diminutive stature, he led the team in pass breakups. The nine breakups also ranked third amongst all ACC freshmen.
The 2019 season would be his breakout year. The young Florida State cornerback secured his first career interception against Virginia. After leading the team as a freshman, his 14 pass breakups as a junior led the entire ACC. His performances led to All-ACC Third Team honors. He was the only Power Five player to log 14 pass breakups and more than 45 tackles.
Despite a disrupted season and a struggling FSU program, Asante Samuel Jr. continued to raise his NFL Draft stock in his junior season. Although he’d demonstrated the ability to disrupt the passing game, a lack of interceptions raised questions. He answered them with two interceptions in the season opener against Georgia Tech. He also logged his first career forced fumble and showed awareness with two fumble recoveries.
At the end of November, Asante Samuel Jr. opted out of the rest of the season and declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. The Florida State cornerback finished his career with First Team All-ACC honors. The 29 passes broken up in his college career ranks 11th in the ACC since 2005.
Analyzing Asante Samuel Jr.’s NFL Draft Profile
Florida cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. has an extremely good chance to be drafted considerably higher in the 2021 NFL Draft than his father was some 18 years ago. There is a lot to love about his game, from his tenacity to his special teams’ value.
Let’s start with tenacity. The Florida State cornerback plays much bigger than his diminutive frame. He has showcased tough tackling ability in the open field against much more physical players than himself. A tremendous example of this is from a game against Boston College where he does an exceptional job of taking down heavily built running back AJ Dillon in the open field, stopping him short of a first down.
Samuel Jr. plays the game with speed
He has quick feet and enough speed to stick with receivers in man coverage. Samuel Jr. excels in man coverage, due to his ability to mirror wide receivers from the line of scrimmage all the way downfield. He is extremely sticky, showcasing good change of direction due to his loose hips.
He also exhibits good instincts and football awareness. This has helped contribute to the number of pass breakups. He can diagnose a situation with his intelligence and then click and close with his speed.
Valuably for his 2021 NFL Draft stock, Asante Samuel Jr. has showcased special teams value both during high school and at Florida State.
What are some potential concerns with Asante Samuel Jr.?
The main concern that you will hear about Florida cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. during the 2021 NFL Draft process is his size. At 5’10” and 184 pounds, he is not only shorter but lighter than the coveted cornerback size. However, for me this isn’t the concern it will be made out to be.
He has shown in college that he has the man coverage skills to be able to play outside corner although teams may see him as a slot corner in the NFL. The biggest concern for me is that he could be scheme-limited. Although he excelled in man coverage, he has limited experience of zone coverage. When he was asked to play zone coverage at Florida State, he wasn’t as impressive.
For all his playmaking ability, he needs to learn to locate the ball better in the air. If he could get his head around and track the ball better he would have increased his interception numbers in college. Although statistics shouldn’t be the ultimate measure of a player’s ability, creating turnovers can make the difference between a win and a loss.
Asante Samuel Jr.’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel Jr.’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft would be with a team that operates a man coverage heavy scheme. There a number of cornerback needy teams this year, but I see some of his best fits as being with the Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans, Atlanta Falcons, and New England Patriots. Those teams played a high percentage of man coverage in the 2020 NFL season.
In his latest big board for Pro Football Network, Tony Pauline ranks Asante Samuel Jr. as the sixth-best cornerback prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. Pauline also gives him a borderline second to third-round grade. With an expected run on cornerbacks in the first round, there is a solid chance that Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. hears his name called early on the second day of the 2021 NFL Draft.
That would comfortably emulate his father’s draft position. The outcome of his NFL career is in his own hands.
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