An underrated commodity at the NFL level is versatility on the defensive line. Players who rest on the boundary between defensive tackles and edge rushers can provide more flexibility for a unit. With that flexibility, defensive coordinators can use more combinations along their front. They can also utilize a wider variety of blitz packages. On the surface, Tulane defensive tackle Cameron Sample provides this flexibility in the 2021 NFL Draft. But does he have enough talent to take on such a role?
Cameron Sample NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive Tackle
- School: Tulane
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’2 3/4″
- Weight: 274 pounds
- Wingspan: 81″
- Arm: 32 1/2″
- Hand: 10″
Tony Pauline’s Cameron Sample Scouting Report
Positives: Three-year starter for Tulane who also saw action with the first team as a freshman. Athletic college defensive end with a large upside. Possesses good first-step quickness, effectively uses his hands, and easily changes direction in backside pursuit. Fast in a straight line as well as laterally, possesses a closing burst and works his hands throughout the action. Breaks down well, shows the ability to bend off the edge, and constantly makes his presence felt.
Negatives: Lacks size and bulk. Easily out-positioned by opponents. More of a first-step lineman.
Analysis: Sample was a terrific college defensive end who made his presence felt at Tulane. He’s a Day 3 selection who can help a team as a rookie and eventually develop into a starter. Sample has upside but would benefit from an NFL strength and conditioning program.
Cameron Sample Player Profile
Some high-profile prospects need second chances at smaller schools after their careers in the Power Five don’t go as intended. Sample isn’t that kind of draft prospect. He was overlooked in high school. As a 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end from Snellville, Georgia, Sample only registered as a two-star prospect, ranked outside the Top 2,500.
Sample only had five scholarship offers to play college football. Only one of those was from the FBS level. Lower-level schools like Elon, Georgia Southern, Florida A&M, and Eastern Kentucky all offered Sample. However, the future defensive tackle chose to accept his lone FBS offer, and suit up for the Tulane Green Wave at the collegiate level.
Cameron Sample’s career as a Tulane defensive tackle
Despite his lower billing as a high school recruit, Sample got playing time as a true freshman for the Green Wave. In eight games, the young lineman logged 26 total tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, and a pass deflection. Sample’s 2017 production in limited action earned him a greater role in 2018. That year, he and fellow 2017 recruit Patrick Johnson helped Tulane’s line become a force to be reckoned with.
In 2018, while Johnson joined the double-digit sacks club, Sample served as his highly capable counterpunch on the defensive line. Sample accumulated 40 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 4.0 sacks in 11 starts, while also notching a pass breakup. Much of Sample’s production came against high-level competition. In an early game against Ohio State, Sample had nine of his tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Sample’s final two seasons with the Tulane Green Wave
In 2019, Sample’s production continued. The Tulane defensive tackle amassed 44 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. He also deflected four passes, showing his ability to disrupt the passing lane with his arms. The 2020 season was his best. As a senior, Sample put up career-highs in every tackling metric, with 52 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 5.0 sacks.
At the end of his career, Sample had become a dangerous pass rush threat alongside Patrick Johnson. And for his growth, he was finally noticed. Sample was named a first-team AAC selection along with Johnson. He also accepted an invitation to the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
Analyzing Cameron Sample’s 2021 NFL Draft Profile
Right away, Cameron Sample’s size catches your attention on the film. At 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, he’s a powerful defensive lineman with a thick lower body and strong arms. Sample’s length isn’t the greatest. However, with his solid upper-body power and grip strength, he can set and maintain anchors in run defense. His stout build also gives him some natural leverage against taller linemen, especially ones who don’t play with great knee bend.
The Tulane Green Wave expanded beyond Sample’s role as a DT and lined him up at various spots. Sample also showed the ability to line up along the edge, in addition to being a three-technique. His power and leg churn allows him to generate movement all across the line. Additionally, Sample has a working arsenal of pass rush moves at his disposal. Although he can show this polish more consistently, his hands are fast and powerful at their best moments.
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Sample also shows impressive flashes of athleticism. His athletic profile isn’t necessarily complete — as we’ll get into — but the Tulane defensive tackle has solid explosiveness on the interior line. He also has very impressive lateral agility and recovery athleticism. There are moments where Sample sheds his block with force, then lurches to make a tackle in an instant. He’s not an elite athlete, but he can generate good momentum without much runway.
What are the issues with Cameron Sample?
While we’re on the topic of athleticism, we might as well talk about Sample’s limits. As alluded to earlier, Sample’s traits don’t give him as much freedom on the edge. As an edge rusher, Sample’s explosiveness isn’t as consistent. He’s also not very flexible in his upper body. Sample shows flashes of good burst along the edge, but these can also be attributed to timing the snap well. Against longer, more athletic tackles, he may find himself struggling to get free.
Additionally, Sample doesn’t have much pursuit speed, which limits his ability to seep out to the edge on outside runs. He does play with a good motor overall, but he reaches his top speed quickly and isn’t much of a threat outside of the trenches. Sample’s average length can also impact his ability to get to the point of attack in run defense. Longer linemen with comparable power can get the jump on Sample. From there, Sample sometimes struggles to disengage. More physical linemen can bring him to the ground entirely.
Senior Bowl Performance
Few prospects helped their stock at the Senior Bowl more than Tulane defensive tackle Cameron Sample. He measured in a bit lighter than expected, but he was solid all week, and he dominated in one-on-one drills during Thursday’s practice. He displayed the ability to win with a mix of power, explosiveness, leverage, hand usage, and deception, and also flashed good ankle flexion when creasing the edge. In the game, Sample won Defensive MVP, logging a game-high seven total tackles, a half-sack, and 0.5 tackles for loss.
Sample not only used the Senior Bowl week to make a good impression, but he also expanded beyond validating his talents, and proved that he can be a potential starter in the NFL.
Cameron Sample’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Cameron Sample is without question a 2021 NFL Draft prospect to keep in the memory banks. While he is a bit limited with his length and lack of flexibility, he has enough explosiveness, power, and motor to be a potential rotational player on the interior. Additionally, while it’s not his main position, he can also line up on the edge on a situational basis.
Luckily for Sample, he improved his stock at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. There, we got a better analysis of Sample’s athletic traits. Sample consistently showed solid burst off the line, fast, powerful hands at the point of attack, and nice ankle flexion around the edge as well. He was voted as the best defensive lineman for practice week, and named the Defensive Player of the Game on game day. From both the edge and the interior, he generated pressure.
Which teams can adequately harness Sample’s versatility?
Sample’s versatility along the line gives him some breathing room when it comes to fit. He’s strong enough to be a 4-3 defensive tackle who shifts out to end on occasion. However, he almost fits better as a 3-4 defensive end who can also be an extra rusher on the edge. The combinations are numerous for Sample, who, for the time being, projects well as a potential Top 100 pick, whose ceiling is likely Round 4. In that range, teams like the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, and Baltimore Ravens, and Cincinnati Bengals make sense as potential matches.
Sample helped his stock further with a strong showing at his Tulane pro day. There, Sample registered a Relative Athletic Score of 7.44. Numbers that contributed to that strong score included an acceptable 4.79 40-yard dash time, 23 bench reps, and an outstanding 37-inch vertical. Sample also measured with 33.5-inch arms, further compounding his upside as an explosive, well-leveraged lineman.
In his current range, Sample is a very good depth piece who has the versatility to play multiple roles if needed. And at the Senior Bowl, he proved he has starting potential. He has the explosiveness, the length, and the motor to be a force on pass rushing downs. And if he can get stronger and maximize his athletic traits consistently, he has the tenacity, and natural leverage to be a threat all-around. At the very least, Sample can be a rotational spark plug with pass rushing upside. But as a potential starter with inside-outside versatility, he offers even more.