On December 29, Jaylen Samuels and the N.C. State Wolfpack will face off against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. The 5-foot-11, 228 pound senior running back/tight end has had a long and consistent college career exhibiting unique versatility. Given his size, can he find a home at the NFL level?
THE EARLY YEARS
Samuels was a mere two-star safety/fullback high school prospect heralding from Charlotte, NC. With only five scholarship offers from Power 5 schools, it’s safe to say Samuels flew well under the recruiting radar.
As a freshman at N.C. State in 2014, he saw limited action in 11 games played, logging 15 rushing attempts and snagging six receptions. He did however score one touchdown in each area, beginning a trend of absurd TD production that would continue for the remainder of his college career.
In 2015, Samuels was levied with more opportunity, leading the team in all three major receiving categories (65/597/7) while also finishing third on the team in yards rushing (368) and second in rushing TDs (9). Samuels found the end zone in 10 of his 13 games and finished with 5 or more receptions nine times.
2016 AND BEYOND
As a junior, Samuels’s rushing production was dialed back – just 33 carries in 13 games – largely due to the emergence of Matthew Dayes. But again, he made the most of his opportunity, scoring on an insane 18 percent of his rushing attempts. As a pass-catcher, he chalked up yet another solid season-long effort, leading the Wolfpack in receptions (55) and receiving TDs (7) while finishing second in yards receiving (565).
Then in 2017, Samuels again shifted gears, finishing with his best statistical rushing season of his career (72/387/11). He chipped in his third straight 500-yard receiving season as well (68/547/4).
While the steady production in terms of both rushing and receiving counting stats is obviously impressive, here at Rotoviz we like to reference production in terms of market share, or simply put, the percentage of a team’s rushing or receiving yards produced by a single player. Here are the career market share numbers for Samuels:
To add to my harping about Samuels’s consistency from year to year, you can see he has accounted for at least 23 percent of his team’s rushing and receiving TDs in each of the last three seasons. For some perspective, I’ve listed a few examples of recently-drafted RBs that were considered high-level receivers along with their career-best single season market share of receiving TDs.
- Christian McCaffrey — 20 percent (2016)
- Joe Mixon — 12 percent (2016)
- Alvin Kamara — 18 percent (2015)
This is not to say Samuels is the same caliber prospect compared to these three. In fact, he’s almost certainly not. And in fairness, McCaffrey, Mixon, and Kamara all accounted for a higher percentage of their team’s rushing yardage compared to Samuels. However, it shows that accounting for a substantial chunk of your team’s receiving and rushing TD production is difficult, let alone for three straight seasons.
For Jaylen Samuels to find longevity in the NFL, a few things will likely to have happen:
- He’ll need to test relatively well at the combine in order to assure he gets drafted
- He’ll likely have to be an immediate contributor on special teams
- And he’ll need go to a team with creative coaching minds willing to ignore his tweener frame and find ways to get him the ball, especially in scoring situations
While he was never truly able to find a permanent position at N.C. State, Samuels consistently produced in a variety of ways, ending up as one of just four players since 2000 to record multiple seasons with at least 500 receiving yards, 300 rushing yards, and 10 total TDs. Circumstances likely need to break just right for Samuels to be a relevant NFL asset, but there’s no questioning his unique production profile.