If all you see in some of the analysis on Curtis Samuel is H-back for the Ohio State Buckeyes, you might wonder why the Minnesota Vikings are interested enough to bring him in as one of their 30 predraft visits, according to NFL Network.
Remember, however, how Urban Meyer used Percy Harvin at Florida and see the comparisons to Harvin there and Samuel under Meyer at Ohio State and it gets intriguing.
“He grew up modeling his game after Percy Harvin and filled a similar role in Urban Meyer’s offense, lining up in the backfield and as a receiver – only player in Ohio State history to finish his career with 1,000+ yards both rushing and receiving,” says NFLDraftScout.com’s evaluation of Samuel on CBS.
Of course, the Vikings had their successes with Harvin as a first-round pick before they felt his headaches and the headaches he caused outweighed the benefits, but Samuel is projected to go on Day 2 of the draft. It’s debatable whether the Vikings would spend that high of a pick on a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none type of player, but head coach Mike Zimmer has indicated the Vikings could use a deep threat.
With a 4.31 40-yard dash, Samuel was comfortably in second place at the NFL Scouting Combine, perched ninth-hundreths of a second behind the all-time Combine record-setter, John Ross, and nine seconds in front of the third-place receiver during February’s testing in Indianapolis.
The issue is where he could be used best, as he was effective as both a running back and receiver at Ohio State.
“Fluid athlete with balanced start/stop quickness. Lower body explosiveness to maneuver in tight spaces,” says the analysis from NFL Draft Scout. “Shifts gears well in the open field with the finishing speed to out-run defenders. Deceiving body strength to fight off tackle attempts and keep his feet. Savvy football instincts and decision-making with or without the ball.”
Although he was never the workhorse running back, Samuel averaged a whopping 7.5 yards per carry on 172 carries in three years. He broke out as a receiver last year, catching 74 passes for 865 yards and an 11.7-yard average. He had 18 plays of 20 yards or more in 2016, and between rushing and receiving he racked up 15 touchdowns.
He earned Associated Press All-American honors and was a first-team All-Big 10 pick.
The issue is where he fits in an NFL offense. He’s not a pure running back and not a big-bodied outside receiver – he is only 5-foot-10½ and 196 pounds.
“Jack-of-all trades but master of none, Samuel showed an ability to gain yardage and create scoring opportunities in a variety of ways on a talented Buckeyes offense,” NFL.com wrote in its evaluation. “However, NFL teams will want to slot him into a more defined role, which is most likely at receiver. He is still learning the position and has separation quickness to create open throwing lanes, but while he’s sharpening his route work, he could find early reps as a kick returner.”
In his first two years at Ohio State, he returned 21 kickoffs and averaged 21.6 yards. Last year, he had limited success as a punt returner, averaging only 3.2 yards on six returns.
“I can’t say I feel like a full-time receiver still, just because of my running back background,” Samuel said at the Combine. “I love to run the ball. I love to catch. I’d say I’m both. I’m still a hybrid.”
While he may not have a defined role, his predraft visit to the Vikings shows they have an interest and they have stated a desire to add some deep speed in the receiving game. The trick will be if he is still available when the Vikings feel his value meets his skills.