Asante Samuel Jr. was seen as a steal by many when the Chargers selected him in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft. His talent was undeniable, but a number of NFL circles couldn’t bring themselves to bet on a first-round cornerback who stands at a generous 5’10 and 180 pounds.
In spite of the doubters and non-believers, Samuel started his professional career with a bang as he was named the Pepsi Rookie of the Week twice after back-to-back games in week two and three while picking off pass in either contest.
Unfortunately, a string of bad injury luck — including two concussions — derailed what looked like an otherwise stellar rookie season.
Now on the bright side, Samuel is entering his sophomore season healthy and will get the chance to play alongside some new teammates in All-Pro J.C. Jackson and Bryce Callahan. In fact, the expectations for Samuel are still high enough that he was one of five players named to CBS Sports’ list of second-year breakout players that are bouncing back from an injury-riddled rookie season.
“Just like his dad in the 2003 draft, Samuel Jr. should’ve been a first-round pick,” says NFL analyst Chris Trapasso. “The only reason he was selected in Round 2 ... his size. But at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Samuel’s natural feistiness shines against larger receivers and he has nickel corner-esque suddenness, which gets him to the ball in a flash if it’s thrown in his direction. “
“Two concussions curtailed a promising debut campaign for the legacy — Samuel Jr. still managed 11 pass breakups and two interceptions in 12 contests. His coverage brilliance was evident when he was on the field — for about 60% of the defensive snaps.”
“This year, with clean bill of health, Samuel will go from encouraging rookie to budding superstar in what should be a loaded-with-playmakers defense in Los Angeles.”
Overall, Samuel missed five games but started every other contest he played in. He finished with 43 total tackles, one tackle for loss, 11 pass breakups, and the aforementioned pair of interceptions. With Jackson, Callahan, and hopefully a rebounding Michael Davis to round out the top of the cornerback depth chart, this secondary will find a way to flourish on a much more consistent basis compared to the lackluster performance in 2021.