We all know the Bengals love versatility. In reality, every NFL team loves versatile players. And the player in this year’s NFL Draft who may just be the most versatile of them all is NC State tight end/fullback/running back Jaylen Samuels.
His senior year stat line was pretty ridiculous as he caught 76 passes for 597 yards and 4 touchdowns and added on 77 rushing attempts, netting 403 rushing yards (5.2 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns. And then there were his nine kick returns on which he averaged 23.7 yards. Talk about a do-it-all player.
Samuels will need to work on his blocking if he’s going to be a fullback or tight end in the NFL, but he says teams have told him they see him as a running back in the pros. Still, the league actually decided to have him initially workout with the tight ends at the NFL Combine, which had many in Indianapolis confused.
“It was the NFL’s choice. It wasn’t my choice,” Samuels said of the decision to group him with tight ends in Indianapolis. “At first they had me with running backs and then they switched halfway through to tight ends. That’s kind of how that worked.”
Samuels came to NC State after being recruited by the tight ends coach, but his role increased during his four years in Raleigh to include more than just the responsibilities of a tight end. Samuels is fine with being grouped with the tight ends, but he also worked out with the running back group to prove his diversified ability.
“I’m also going to be doing some running back drills as well, so I’ll be do a little extra work after the tight end group,” he said. “I’ll be able to showcase my catching ability and also routes coming out of the backfield or whatever they want me to do.”
The team that drafts Samuels will have the opportunity to draw up some creative plays that use the do-it-all player to the offense’s advantage. He believes he can play anywhere on the field. At the NFL level, he’ll have an opportunity to be a short yardage power back as well as taking on some pass-catching and fullback duties.
“They see me as a running back, so I’ll contribute in any way our offensive coordinator wants us to be,” Samuels said. “Any position, whether it is receiver, split out the backfield, being a running back, whatever. I actually got more snaps from the slot. I was in the slot most of the time, third-down, red zone, in the backfield, depending on the game and whoever we were playing. I had what, 77 catches this year, so I was mostly slot.”
Samuels will probably be drafted early on Day 3, which is likely the soonest the Bengals will be considering a player of his stature. The running back position is relatively set in Cincinnati with Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, but there’s always room for a versatile weapon like Samuels.
“I am hard working, able to catch, catch out of the backfield. And able to run the ball as a ballcarrier, so a lot of different things,” Samuels said of his strengths. “Special teams as well – I played all four special teams in college. Wherever I can help contribute that’s where I will fit.”