NFL draft profile: No. 43 — Ohio State WR-RB Curtis Samuel, a multi-tool weapon

Shutdown Corner

Ohio State WR-RB Curtis Samuel
5-foot-11, 196 pounds

Key stat: Primarily a running back in his three years at OSU, Samuel had only one 100-yard rushing game in his career (100 on the nose against Kent State in 2014) but two 100-yard receiving games (137 vs. Nebraska in 2016; 177 vs. Bowling Green in 2016) in his career.

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Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel could project as a returner, runner or receiver in the NFL. (AP)
Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel could project as a returner, runner or receiver in the NFL. (AP)

The skinny: The multi-talented runner served as Ezekiel Elliott’s backup for his first two seasons in Columbus, also contributing as a special teamer. Samuel finally got a chance as a showcase performer in the “Percy Position” of Urban Meyer’s offense, so named after Percy Harvin at Florida, earning Associated Press All-American mention. Samuel also was named first-team All-Big Ten, rushing for 771 yards (8.0 average) and eight touchdowns and catching 74 passes for 865 yards (11.7 average) and seven scores. He led the Big Ten in all-purpose yards per game at 128.8 and paced the Buckeyes with his 15 TDs. Scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime in thrilling win against Michigan this past season. Has experience returning both punts and kickoffs, too.

Samuel declared early for the 2017 NFL draft. He doesn’t turn 21 until August, and he touched the ball a mere 300 times in his Buckeyes career.

Best-suited destination: Samuel projects as either a pass-catching running back — say, in the way the Kansas City Chiefs used Jamaal Charles — or as a receiver in training. Although he had a limited route tree and will need to learn the finer points of the position, Samuel has the goods to develop the way Randall Cobb did with the Green Bay Packers. Teams that value versatility, such as the Packers, Chiefs, New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings or Seattle Seahawks could make some sense taking a player such as Samuel and letting him develop over time.

Upside: His combine 40-yard dash (4.31 seconds) really opened eyes, but his play speed also is fast, as he was seen beating defensive backs to the edge at times. Played big in big games and made the most of his limited touches in crowded offensive situation. Has very good versatility and is a quick study with varied responsibility. Makes quick, decisive cuts as a runner and can make magic happen in the open field. Has clear ability as a receiver, showing instinctive and aggressive mentality to attack the ball. Often adjusted well to off-target throws without breaking stride. Has a ton of tread left on his tires and should be only limited, production-wise, by a lack of coaching creativity.

Downside: Samuel is not yet a polished receiver and will need incremental training. His route tree was limited (flat, Texas, angle, wheel, e.g.), although there’s potential to grow from there. Not a polished blocker at all yet. Samuel sometimes tries to hit home runs, instead of singles and doubles, and will lose yards because of it. Physically, he’s not all that imposing and might be limited in how much work he can do in traffic. His long speed is better than his lateral quickness, which might also limit his effectiveness in the NFL. Shorter arms mean he could struggle to get off press coverage if used as an outside receiver. Might be limited to primarily slot duty if he’s moved to wideout permanently.

Scouting hot take: “I gave him a [low second-round grade] but can see the dilemma [about where to play him]. He’d be a receiver for us, I think, but like you saw with Harvin … I think they’re similar in some ways. You can use him on jet sweeps and different things off motion, like they used to do with Brian Westbrook years back. I like him.” — College scouting director

Player comp: A cross between Cobb and Charlie Garner, depending on where an NFL team uses Samuel

Expected draft range: Top 75 pick.

Previous profiles

Nos. 51-100: Here’s who just missed the cut
No. 50: Indiana OG-C Dan Feeney
No. 49: Iowa DB Desmond King
No. 48: Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
No. 47: Wisconsin pass rusher T.J. Watt
No. 46. Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams
No. 45. Washington CB Sidney Jones
No. 44. Alabama LB Ryan Anderson

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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