Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, which starts April 29, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five for Nos. 100-51, followed by more in-depth reports on our top 50 players, with help from our scouting assistant, Liam Blutman. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.
Other prospect rankings: Nos. 100-96 | 95-91 | 90-86 | 85-81 | 80-76 | 75-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. OT Liam Eichenberg | 49. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. | 48. LB Chazz Surratt | 47. EDGE Joe Tryon | 46. OT-OG Alex Leatherwood | 45. CB Asante Samuel Jr. | 44. DL Levi Onwuzurike | 43. LB Jabril Cox | 42. DT Daviyon Nixon | 41. EDGE Ronnie Perkins | 40. LB Nick Bolton | 39. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu | 38. WR Elijah Moore | 37. OT Jalen Mayfield | 36. EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. | 35. CB Elijah Molden | 34. RB Travis Etienne | 33. WR Kadarius Toney | 32. EDGE Jayson Oweh | 31. LB Zaven Collins | 30. DT Christian Barmore | 29. QB Mac Jones | 28. CB Caleb Farley | 27. RB Javonte Williams | 26. C-OG Landon Dickerson | 25. S Trevon Moehrig | 24. CB Greg Newsome II | 23. WR Rashod Bateman | 22. | 21.
45. Florida State CB Asante Samuel Jr.
5-foot-10, 180 pounds
Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.89 — potential starter
TL;DR scouting report: Undersized playmaker on the outside who takes after his father but tackles and plays more physically than expected
Games watched: Florida (2020), Florida State (2020), North Carolina (2020), Pitt (2020)
The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit (No. 46 nationally), Samuel signed with FSU — symbolically on the anniversary of his grandmother’s death — and saw the field right away as a true freshman. In 2018, he started three of 12 games, making 17 tackles (one for loss) and nine pass breakups. The next season Samuel made 48 tackles (one for loss), one interception and an ACC-best 14 passes defended (eighth nationally). As a junior, he started the first eight games in 2020, making 31 tackles (one for loss), three interceptions and six pass breakups prior to opting out for the remainder of the season and declaring for the 2021 draft.
Upside: Very good athlete. Nicely sculpted physique for a smaller frame. Extremely quick and agile feet. Stops on a dime and closes fast and hard. Enough speed to carry receivers vertically. Good balance transitioning from his backpedal. Possesses lower-body strength and explosion.
Great pass-coverage instincts. Breaks on the ball faster and drives on out-breaking routes than most corners in this class. Trusts his instincts and showed more of an attacking mentality later in his college career. Crowds and annoys receivers with his sticky coverage. Likes to get in guys’ faces — hornet-like presence.
Feisty, scrappy corner — not a finesse player by any means. Plays big for his size. Doesn’t back down from physical challenges. Heck of a tackler for his size — might go low but comes in hard. Highly competitive and confident play.
Watch from his 2019 against Boston College as Samuel chops down 250-pound RB A.J. Dillon, a second-round draft pick of the Packers in 2020:
Times up passes well. Great ball production — four INTs, 29 passes defended on 137 career targets, per PFF. Allowed 51.3 percent career completions, and that includes a true-freshman season in which he was frequently picked on. Limited big plays in 2020 — long reception allowed of only 38 yards. Showed some return potential — ran back his three 2020 picks back for 74 yards, including 38- and 36-yard returns.
Scheme-diverse. Has operated in man and zone coverage and has improved press technique. Very comfortable and natural playing outside. Has played enough inside to be thrown into nickel duties as well. Handles quickness well inside or outside. Has NFL bloodlines.
Downside: Very small frame and not getting any bigger anytime soon. Can get worked by bigger, stronger receivers — especially in man coverage. Less-than-ideal length to make plays at the catch point — 30 1/8-inch arms and 72 1/4-inch wingspan, both bottom 10th percentile. Small hands, too (8 7/8 inches).
More of an ankle/drag-down tackler than a hitter. Even some quarterbacks broke out of his tackle attempts (see North Carolina). Can’t detach readily from receivers’ blocks to make a play.
Flagged five times in eight 2020 games — grabby downfield. Tries to get away with downfield contact and sometimes does but will need to be more subtle about it. Multiple pass-interference calls against him the past two seasons.
Might be best in a zone system. Lacks great length for press coverage and gives too big a cushion in off-man, even with his excellent click-and-close ability. Will overplay receivers off the line to cross his face and allow quick, easy completions on slants and drags. Needs to work on bail/side-saddle technique. Looks less sure of himself with his back to the ball — guilty of too much face guarding.
Not much experience as a blitzer. Has said he prefers to play outside.
Best-suited destination: We see Samuel thriving best in a heavy zone and off-man system, possibly as a nickel. He should be given a chance to perform outside before making that call. Samuel might be on the small side and lose some physical battles, but he has the temperament to make it work in the long run. Any team seeking more playmaking in its secondary should make a run at him.
Did you know: As you might have guessed from the name, Samuel is the son of the four-time Pro Bowl and two-time Super Bowl champion cornerback with the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons.
Samuel Jr. spoke to Yahoo Sports earlier this year about his father and what he's working on to prepare for the 2021 NFL draft.
“I’m just trying to make my own way,” Samuel said. “It’s not about not wanting to be him, or whatever. Just me trying to showcase my ability to cover and make plays.
“Some of it is genetics, but I mean, I have always assumed nothing is just going to be given to me because of my name. I want to work for everything I have a shot at. That’s where the hard work pays off. If you don’t put in the time, eventually you’ll fail. I don’t want that to happen.”
Player comp: A smaller Jaire Alexander.
Expected draft range: Top 50
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