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Drew Sample will continue to open up holes in 2021

The former second-round pick has caught the ire of plenty of Bengals fans. It’s time we stop holding his draft position against him and enjoy watching what he does best.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

To start off this player review, we have to have a little discussion about expectations. Every person on this earth walks around every day with pressure to be something. Whether those expectations are placed on us by ourselves or others really doesn’t matter because all any person can be is themselves.

In football, there are certain players that may make contributions beyond what most fans expect as well. That will be important to remember as we talk about the player who fans constantly rag on based on expectations, tight end Drew Sample.

Drew Sample

Height: 6’ 4”

Weight: 258 lbs

Age: 25

College: Washington

Hometown: Bellevue, WA

Experience: third season

Cap Status

Sample is entering the third season of his rookie deal. He is set to account for $1.5 million against the cap, according to Spotrac.com and, barring an extension, become a free agent following the 2022 season.

Background

The 52nd overall pick in the 2019 draft. That is a designation that many can’t get over when talking about the tight end out of Washington. The Sample pick shocked many Bengals fans because it seemingly came out of nowhere, and it wasn’t viewed as an ideal way to kick off the Zac Taylor era in Cincinnati.

Sample played in nine games his rookie year before an ankle injury derailed his season. He then went on to play most of 2020 as the starting tight end following C.J. Uzomah’s season-ending injury in Week 2. It was an up and down season for Sample. The former-Husky struggled with drops at times and ended up with just 40 receptions for 349 yards. Though many regarded his production in 13 starts as lackluster, they are forgetting that what Sample brings to the table doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. And that’s blocking.

Outlook for 2021

This isn’t a case to say that Sample will show he was worthy of the 52nd overall pick in 2019. Rather, this is a case for forgetting where he was drafted, unless it is to directly criticize the Bengals’ director of player personnel, Duke Tobin, or Taylor. Sample had no control of the round in which he was selected, and if we as fans keep getting hung up on the matter, we could miss out on watching a pretty good player do his thing.

Coming out of college, Sample wasn’t highly touted as a pass catcher. Entering 2021, he probably won’t be relied on that much to catch passes either with Uzomah returning and the team adding Ja’Marr Chase to the skill players that already included the likes of Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, and Tee Higgins. Sample ends up pretty low on the totem pole there.

Where Sample will make his difference is as a blocker. He hasn’t been able to shine as much because blockers inherently get less credit when they do their jobs correctly. It hasn’t helped that the past two seasons the running game and overall blocking for the Bengals has really struggled. Still, there have been prominent examples of Sample getting the job done.

Sample is often included in big plays like this as a blocker, but they just don’t get as much recognition as catches that go for big gains. Yes, he has plenty of room to grow as a pass catcher, but that won’t be as much of a concern with his opportunities dwindling this year. Further, with new/old offensive line coach Frank Pollack taking over the running game, we may see Sample used in even more innovative ways this season.

Cincinnati should have more big plays in 2021, and if you keep an eye out, odds are you’ll see a Sample block opening the way.