The last time we spoke to head coach Brandon Staley prior to the 2021 draft, he was asked about the specific traits he looks for when scouting a cornerback. Without hesitation, the first thing to come out of his mouth was “the ability to play man coverage.” Well, the Chargers got that in spades with their newest corner, Asante Samuel Jr.
If you’re wondering why that name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the son of former Patriots and Eagles great, Asante Samuel.
Samuel Jr. may be considered undersized by some draft evaluators, but he plays like a much bigger defender thanks to a combination of competitive toughness and high football IQ. It seems like no matter the play, Samuel always tends to be in a position to make something happen.
During one of Staley’s first press conferences with the Chargers, he mentioned that he plans to run a lot more Cover 2, which inherently means more man-to-man. One of my favorite quotes from that presser was when Staley stated that he doesn’t want his defense to persuade offenses to throw because that’s a quick way lower you chances for victory in today’s NFL. The goal is to force opponents to run the ball, which slows down the game and allows the defense more time to make plays while allowing the offenses more time to out up points. It’s all synergistic.
Another underrated trait of a successful secondary — at least to me — is attitude. In the NFL, you need to have supreme confidence and swagger. You need to believe you’re the best player on the field while also having a short-term memory. You’re going to get beat occasionally, but it’s the best of them that can bounce back and make a play when their team needs it the most.
During his time at Florida State, Samuel saw the field immediately, playing in 12 total games with three starts as a freshman. He led the team with nine pass breakups with one tackle-for-loss. As a true sophomore, he earned himself Third-Team All-ACC honors after leading the entire conference with 14 PBUs and his first collegiate interception. Samuel started eight games for the Seminoles before opting out for the rest of the season to prepare for this year’s draft. His final stat line in Tallahassee included a team-high three interceptions and six pass breakups.
At the end of the day, the Chargers went two-for-two in the first two rounds by landing both the best player available while also hitting on the team’s biggest needs coming into the draft. They landed their left tackle of the future in round one and now have an exciting young corner to utilize in the highly-touted defense that Staley’s bringing to the Bolts.