As we typically do on Wednesday nights, we recorded this week’s version of the purpleJOURNAL Podcast. Now, this episode was a bit different, in that the “We” stood for Luke Braun (Senior Writer for purplePTSD.com and host of the Infinite Monkeys Podcast), Me (Joe Johnson, Owner of purplePTSD.com and periodic writer for VikingsTerritory.com) and not Joe Oberle (Senior writer for purplePTSD.com, writer for TheSportsPost.com), who was out and dealing with a family issue. In Joe’s place, though, was simply JR (Like Bono, Beyonce, or Hitler?) who goes by the Twitter handle JReidDraftScout. As I’m sure you can tell, he likes to talk about the draft.
So, to be honest, hosting that show was the first time that I really delved into next month’s draft. Both in the preparation that I did for the show and the in-depth conversations that we did have about the Vikings options in next month’s draft. I can now say, that after discussing the Vikings needs after the moves they’ve made in free agency and realistic options that they do have, Curtis Samuel, the All American/All Big Ten running back slash wide receiver, should be the first player that the Vikings select with the 48th overall pick (or later, depending on how things shake out). Now, I know that a lot of you believe that we need to focus on finding a guard for the offensive line, but there’s good news, at least according to JR, this is a deep guard class. And while it’s also a deep running back class (Just ask Vikings general manager Rick Spielman), I believe that Samuel is the perfect fit for this Vikings team right now, and let me explain why.
Before discussing the draft, and also while discussing it, we focused a lot on the loss of Captain Munnerlyn in the slot/nickel position on defense. While that is a heavy, heavy loss I do think that we skimmed over something that is pretty important. And that is the fact that the Vikings created a couple new needs (or if you’re defending the team, they acquired them against their will?) when they let Cordarrelle Patterson left the Vikings to go to the Raiders. One of the main goals, or general ideas behind creating a successful free agency period is to come out of it with less needs than you had beforehand. No matter how you slice it, though, the Vikings definitely did acquire more needs than they had before free agency and that’s where Samuel comes in. They went into the free agency period with needs on the offensive line, running back and outside linebacker. Afterwards they still had some needs on the line, they still need another running back, that linebacker… But they also need a nickel corner, a wide receiver or two and a punter as well. While a lot of those “losses” will end up being net positives (Especially for the punt game), the fact still remains that the Vikings have a lot of work to do before the season begins. That’s where Curtis Samuel comes in…
First, let me show you a quick highlight reel of his. A quick warning, if you don’t like Kanye West, turn your speakers down until the football starts…
Now, as you can see… Samuel is a duel threat running back/wide receiver. He reminds me a lot of Percy Harvin (Something one of the announcers midway through also notes), sans the mental problems (As far as we know). This guy is amazing, to be honest, and he officially has me psyched for the draft. Now, this may be a point of contention, but if you listened to our show last night you’d hear both Luke and JR essentially saying that they believe that the Vikings need to draft a “Thumper”, or essentially a third down running back who can pick up short yardage and touchdowns from within the five. Essentially Matt Asiata, but younger and cheaper.
If you did listen to the show, you’d hear my confusion about that idea as I was under the impression that the above/thumping is exactly why the Vikings brought in Latavius Murray. Especially considering when he’s described as an upgrade over Matt Asiata. Now, I know that Ted Nguyen of RaidersAnalyst.com stated that Murray isn’t great at breaking tackles or putting his shoulder down, two things that a short yardage/thumping running back needs to be able to do (He also mentioned that Murray went down on first contact “More than people realize”). But still, the guy is 6’3″, 230 pounds, I find it hard to believe that the Vikings will spend a draft pick, in this draft especially, on a guy who is essentially a poor man’s Murray, when they already went out and signed Murray. Keep in mind that, Murray at least at some point, considered himself a ‘Bell Cow’ running back who could get the ball 250-300 times a season and while that’s exactly what the Raiders did in 2015 (When he carried the ball 266 times, followed up by a 196 attempt campaign in 2016, a season in which he played 14 games). He did average 4.0 yards per attempt in both 2015 and 2016, which shows that he’s extremely consistent as well regardless of the touches.
For a general idea on Murray’s game, check out this highlight tape (And again, you will definitely want to turn your headphones/speakers off for this one… One day I’ll write an article about this fad of adding rap songs to highlight videos… Now, I’d have to say that rap is my favorite form of music, as I grew up in North Minneapolis, but still… We’re here to watch football, not jam out to Future or Drake…). For a guy who apparently goes down on first contact and doesn’t lower his shoulder, he seems to do a lot of the opposite of that (Especially in the play against the Vikings, of course)…
So. I do agree with Luke and JR in one aspect. I do believe that the Vikings are going to draft another running back next month. However, I really do think that they’ll end up, or at least should end up, taking someone like Curtis Samuel, for a couple of reasons. First, he can house the ball every time he touches it. He does really remind me of Percy Harvin, in a good way and I think that the Vikings offense will definitely need someone with that ability now that Adrian Peterson (and to a lesser extent, Cordarrelle Patterson) are on longer on the team. Also, considering the fact that the Vikings are in the market for a wide receiver, having a running back who clearly excels at lining up as a wide receiver would help accomplish both of those things. I also think that he may be available after the second round, as at least the NFL.com analysis of him doesn’t really speak glowingly about the All-American. Stating that he is a “Jack of all trades, but a master of none”. However, one intriguing piece is that Samuel is STILL LEARNING. A guy who had 15 total touchdowns last season and that average EIGHT yards a carry is still learning/getting better? Where do I sign up?!? While the Vikings have been burned, recently, by gadget players with a lot to learn, I really do believe that Samuel has shown flashes of brilliance and the ability to run fluid routes (Despite what NFL.com says), something that Patterson or even Treadwell never did or have done, respectively.
Surprisingly, for a guy who is 5’11”, 197 pounds, (But looks a lot smaller on the field) he’s also pretty darn good at short yardage plays. If you made it through his entire highlight reel you’ll see that. So, he’ll be able to compensate for the “thumper” type back that some believe the team needs and also open up the offense by being a dual threat at running back and wide receiver, something the team does need and tried to incorporate with Cordarrelle Patterson. And he’s not just a running back that occasionally lines up at receiver, again if you watched his entire highlight reel you’ll see that he seems like a natural pass catcher and route runner (Even if he ran limited routes, per the NFL.com article), something the Vikings haven’t had in a very long time. He seems to speed up when he catches the ball, in stride, in some sort of opposite of Tecmo Bowl. There’s multiple plays where he either has to re-adjust for the catch, in-stride, or jump up and fight for a ball, and because it’s a highlight tape, he comes down with the ball with ease. Because of that he lead the Big Ten in all purpose yards last season, with an average of 128.8 per game. Wowzers.
Outside of pass catching and coming in as a change of pace guy (At least at first), Samuel could also help fill the biggest need left by the free agent “Exodus” that Cordarrelle Patterson participated in (I’m kidding). Returning kicks. Now, Samuel didn’t return kicks last season, as he became too important to the Buckeye’s offense to risk him on special teams (Like Chad Greenway as a rookie tearing his ACL on pre-season kick coverage), but he did return kicks as a freshman and sophomore, and was pretty successful at it.
Now, in case you can’t read that (What is this, a chart for Ants?! Courtesy of Sports-Reference.com), it says that over the course of two seasons Samuel averaged 21.6 yards per kick return. Not too shabby! Sure, it wouldn’t be as good as a touch back, and he never housed a kick, but he has the ability to definitely do some damage as a rookie in the kicking game. Then there’s the balance between rushing and receiving, again. I wanted you guys to see the yardage breakdown between his runs and catches.
Now, again, a tiny chart. But, essentially what it says is that Samuel had more receiving yards than rushing yards in his final two seasons as a Buckeye. He had a combined 1,636 yards last season as a junior, with seven touchdowns through the air and eight on the ground, many in short yardage situations. In a year that the Vikings don’t have a first round pick and also have multiple needs, a guy like Samuel who can check multiple boxes and help out in more than one facet of the offense and special teams, should be a no-brainer. Think about it, he can score touchdowns in short yardage situations, something the Vikings struggled mightily at last season, he can return kicks and he can play both running back and wide receiver. He’s essentially the Swiss Army Knife of the NFL and a perfect fit for what the Vikings are looking for. So, again, a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned.
Then again, nothing would surprise me at this point when it comes to the Vikings, so perhaps this is wishful thinking. Although, I did write a ton of pieces about the Vikings needing Boehringer around this time last season and that seemed to work out (After I told Norv Turner to draft him in person the day of the draft), so, I’ll have my fingers crossed when the Vikings pick either at 48 in the second round or when they use one of their two third round picks. Oh, and if the above didn’t get you excited for Samuel, then watch him run a 4.31 40 yard dash at the combine and try not to drool.
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