COLUMBUS, Ohio — After putting together one of the most dynamic football seasons in Ohio State history, Curtis Samuel opted to forgo his senior year in Columbus and made himself eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft.
The only question now for the former Ohio State H-back is whether the same versatility that allowed him to dominate in college football will carry over to the next level.
With a stellar showing at the NFL combine in February, Samuel is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the April draft. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how he got here and what lies ahead for the former Ohio State star.
The eighth-ranked athlete in the 2014 class, Samuel committed to Ohio State on Aug. 16, 2013. A 4-star prospect and the top-ranked player in New York, the Brooklyn Erasmus product chose the Buckeyes after also receiving offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Miami, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Southern California.
Ohio State career
After arriving in Columbus as an early enrollee in the winter of 2014, Samuel spent his freshman season serving as the primary backup to running back Ezekiel Elliott. Appearing in all 15 games of Ohio State’s national championship season, Samuel tallied 383 yards and 6 touchdowns on 58 attempts.
As a sophomore, Samuel slid to wideout, but a loaded Buckeyes roster and inconsistent passing attack prevented him from making much of an impact. In 13 games, he tallied 22 catches for 289 yards and 2 touchdowns, adding 132 yards and another TD on 17 rushing attempts.
As a junior, Samuel truly took off, playing the Percy Harvin role as an H-back in Urban Meyer’s offense. In 2016, Samuel was the only player in college football to record 700 rushing yards and 800 receiving yards as he totaled 1,636 yards from scrimmage (865 receiving, 771 rushing) and 15 touchdowns.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound player is, of course, best remembered for his game-winning touchdown in the Buckeyes’ double-overtime College Football Playoff-clinching win over rival Michigan.
Samuel earned All-America honors in 2016.
What his coaches said
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer: “I think he’s having a helluva year. If we didn’t have him, what else would we be talking about? I’m not sure the fixation with him other than I love him and he’s a great player.”
Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford: “He does his entire job, the entire job description. He’s playing at a very high level. … He’s earned everything he’s getting.”
What draft experts are saying
Been asked if Curtis Samuel is similar to Tyreek Hill. Similar, yes, but Tyreek is much stronger and a little faster.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 17, 2017
CBSSports.com’s Dane Brugler: “The East Coast version of (Christian) McCaffrey, Samuel was the only FBS player with 700-plus yards rushing and receiving this past season. He projects very well as a slot receiver with his routes and reliable ball skills, but also averaged 7.9 yards per rush in 2016 and is a true hybrid weapon in the NFL.”
NFL draft projection
Samuel has been a recent riser in most mock drafts after posting a 4.31-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. In his latest mock draft, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller projects that the Buffalo Bills will select Samuel with the 75th overall pick in the third round.
Given Samuel’s strong combine performance, it would not be surprising to see him rise into the second round.
While Miller compares Samuel to Kansas City Chiefs breakout star Tyreek Hill, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein likens the former Buckeye to Josh Huff.
A third-round pick by Philadelphia in 2014, Huff spent the better part of three seasons with the Eagles before signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second half of the 2016 campaign. At 5-foot-11 and 206 pounds, Huff has tallied 51 receptions for 523 yards and 4 touchdowns in his three-year career.
Writes Zierlein of Samuel: “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. 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.”