Steelers running back Jaylen Samuels may have just received a bit of a fantasy boost. James Conner suffered a leg contusion against the Chargers, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin announced after the game.
There has not been a timetable released for Conner, but NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the injury may not be as severe as was initially feared.
“On #Steelers RB James Conner: My understanding is the injury is not to his ankle and not considered major at all. Coach Mike Tomlin called it a contusion and it seems like he’ll be OK, based on early impressions. How much it swells will be telling,” Rapoport tweeted.
Samuels would be the next man up for Pittsburgh and becomes a must-add in all fantasy formats if Conner does end up missing games.
The rookie running back was used as a swiss-army knife during his time at NC State. The Wolfpack used him all over the field at running back, tight end and fullback. While Samuels may not be the between-the-tackles runner that Conner is, he offers the Steelers a bit more versatility in the passing game. Tomlin praised Samuels’ skill-set during the offseason.
“I’ve really been impressed with Jaylen’s skill set, particularly in terms of receiving the football,” Tomlin said per 247 Sports. “It was highly documented at NC State. He has confirmed all of that through his performances thus far.”
Jaylen Samuels Played Tight End, Running Back & Fullback at NC State
During his senior season at NC State, Samuels had 75 receptions for 593 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Samuels also rushed for 407 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Steelers offensive lineman Ramon Foster raved about what he saw from the rookie back over the offseason.
“He’s doing more than just run the ball,” Foster said per 247 Sports. “Le’Veon (Bell) created the blueprint for this thing. If you’re a young running back that’s coming up, learn how to run the ball and catch the ball. He’s made two or three combat catches in the end zone, back-shoulder fades and jump-balls where you’re like, ‘this kid’s got something,’ receiver stuff, which is huge. That gives him an opportunity. He’s just so stoic, too. He’ll catch the ball and just go back like it’s work as usual. That’s what you have to appreciate about a young guy like that.”
Here is an excerpt from NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein’s scouting report on Samuels heading into the draft.
Some may see Samuels as a valuable hybrid talent, while others may see a player who offers roster flexibility but lacks a position where he can win consistently. Samuels isn’t a tight end and has to prove he can handle blocking duties well enough to be a fullback. He will, however, appeal to teams looking to disguise their attacks with more diversified personnel groupings. Samuels best fit may be with a zone-scheme team as a RB/FB with the ability to play slot receiver and become a core special teamer.
If Conner is forced to miss time, Samuels becomes a must-add for your fantasy team and on some sites, he can be played at multiple positions. Even if no news comes out before waivers run, Samuels is worth a speculative add.