Curtis Samuel's NFL Draft appeal is obvious, even if his position is not

Sporting News

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State's Curtis Samuel at Pro Day on Thursday showed once more how much he cando for an NFL franchise.

Samuel, one of the most intriguing playmakers in the 2017 NFL Draft class, whizzed through wide receiver and running back drills in front on nine NFL coaches and representatives from all 32 teams. Hemade tip-toe catches on the sideline. He zipped through the bags and went outside for a few minutes to catch punts. He did, well, everything.

Samuel said he wanted to come out and show he could contribute at both positions, even if he already did that at Ohio State. Yet he's still answering the same question —one that makes him the draft's most curious prospects.

Where do you fit at the next level?

"I don't know," Samuel said when asked the first time. "As you see today I did some inside receiver, I did some routes out of the backfield, I did some outside. I did some running back drills after the receiver stuff. I caught some punts. So I did a lot of stuff today.

"I'm just trying to expand my role wherever teams want me."

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Curtis Samuel at Ohio State Pro Day (Bill Bender)

There's the intrigue.

We saw Samuel do it all at Ohio State last season. He finished with 771 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 7.9 yards per carry as a running back. He had 74 catches for 865 yards and seven scores as a receiver. He scored an immortal, game-winning touchdown against Michigan.

He's fun to watch on the field. He's fun to watch in drills like this ...

Samuel can do it all, even if it's still unclear what exactly he will do in the NFL.

At the very least, Samuel is marketing himself well. It's up to the team thatdrafts him to make him fit. Considering the coachesin attendance Thursday —including New England's Bill Belichick, Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin, Baltimore's John Harbaugh and Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis — the possibilities for Samuel are enticing.

At Ohio State, Samuel was often compared to Percy Harvin, the Holy Grail comparison for every H-back under Urban Meyer. The production between the two players at the college level was close, the only difference being that Harvin did it for two years.

That could apply even more in the NFL: Consider Harvin's best season with Minnesota in 2011, when he had 87 catches for 967 yards and six touchdowns with 52 rushes for 345 yards and two scores. He added 624 total return yards and another touchdownThat's a decent path for Samuel in the NFL, given the correct landing spot.

Harvin checked in at5-11 and 192 pounds before running a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash at the 2009 NFL Combine. Samuel had almost identical dimensions at 5-11 and 196 pounds, but he ran a 4.31 in the 40. That got lost because Washington's John Ross ran a 4.22 just before Samuel.

It's still a 4.31.

"I'm not going to lie," Samuelsaid about his time. "I didn't expect it. My times in training weren't 4.31 or 4.3s at all. I know once I give my body the proper time to heal and rest I can pull off something like that."

Samuel's time raisedhis draft stock, but it also increased the gamble teams must take to get him. Which franchise is willing to do that in the first few rounds? He could be a luxury pick for a playoff contender, or he could be asked to contribute right away for a lower-tier team. Keep in mind Harvin was taken with the No. 22 pick in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. It's a flashy pick.

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Samuel, meanwhile,wasn't interested in talking about which teams he has talked to most about that possibility.Yet when pressed to answer the eternal question one more time, Samuel at least offered a hint about how his career will start in the NFL.

"I feel like I'm more of an inside guy but as the years go by I'm going to evolve and be able to do both," Samuel said. "I want to stay as long as I can, as much as I can to play running back, outside receiver, inside receiver. Wherever teams want me, I'm looking forward to doing that."

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