USC Gamecocks Football

CBS: Deebo Samuel potentially a top-5 pick in 2019 draft

Deebo Samuel cleared to play for 2018 season

Will Muschamp addresses the media at Williams-Brice Stadium on February 26, 2018, in Columbia, SC.
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Will Muschamp addresses the media at Williams-Brice Stadium on February 26, 2018, in Columbia, SC.

Expectations have already started to build around South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel and the 2019 draft.

But this is just a different stratosphere.

CBS NFL writer Will Brinson's early 2019 NFL mock draft had the 6-foot, 210-pound Samuel going with the third pick to the New York Jets. It had him behind only Nick Bosa (Browns) and Will Grier (Giants).

"He missed a lot of 2017 with injury, but when Samuel plays he's a high-impact guy who can take the top off of a defense," Brinson said. "His one-handed touchdown snag in the Gamecocks' season opener last year was ridiculous. The Jets need to get Sam Darnold a true No. 1 weapon to grow with."

Samuel had a star-crossed 2017 season, fraught with highs and lows.

Through nearly three games last fall, Samuel was a darling of the sport. He counted a pair of kick return scores and two highlight-reel catches among his six touchdowns. His big plays had sparked South Carolina to a win at Missouri and proved vital in topping North Carolina State in the season opener.

But on what he explained was a 12-yard curl route against Kentucky, a defender got on his back and fell awkwardly on his ankle. He was taped up and played out the drive, but at the end of the night, Muschamp declared his season over.

He thought he'd have a chance to come back, and after it looked possible, a foot injury ensured the fourth-year junior, who sat with the seniors on photo day, would return to Columbia for another year.

He got some work in spring, but an injury flare-up limited him for some stretches, including the spring game.

Hamstring issues had limited him to five games as a redshirt freshman and 10 the next year, when he broke out with 783 yards and eight total touchdowns (plus one passing).

Injured receiver Deebo Samuel leads the South Carolina football team in the Gamecock Walk ahead of the game vs. Louisiana Tech.