Potential trumps production, at least in terms of scouting NFL prospects. This is why you see a guy like Ziggy Ansah, who registered only 4.5 sacks in his career at BYU, get taken fifth overall in the 2013 NFL Draft: because he’s an athletic freak who hasn’t even begun to tap into his immense potential.
Oregon Ducks tight end/h-back/fullback/running back/wide receiver Colt Lyerla is very similar in this regard. Other than Jadeveon Clowney, there may not be a more versatile athlete in the 2014 NFL Draft class (assuming Lyerla leaves early, as expected).
The scary part? He hasn’t even scraped the surface in a sea of potential.
- Absolute freak athlete (Google him jumping onto a 62″ plyo box for further proof).
- Great size (6-foot-5, 245 pounds), and speed (4.5 40)
- Incredibly versatile: has played fullback, h-back, wide receiver and tight end. Coaches have said he could just as easily play defensive end or any of the linebacking spots as well.
- Played running back in high school and still has the explosiveness in his cuts.
- Willing and able blocker. Not a diva tight end who doesn’t feel the need to block, and certainly not afraid of contact.
- Very solid in-line blocker. Does a good job of keeping his hands inside on his opponents and driving his legs.
- Excellent hands. Does a good job of catching the ball away from his body and not using his chest.
- Intriguing route runner, especially out of the backfield. Makes good cuts and knows how to get open.
- Very hard to bring down after the catch. Does a fantastic job of keeping his legs going for every last yard.
- Excellent flexibility and hips; a very fluid and agile athlete.
- A threat both on the flat and down the seam. Is be a legitimate downfield threat.
- Is a jump ball nightmare to cover. Has the potential to be elite redzone threat in the NFL.
- A true playmaker. Lyerla is just a big play waiting to happen.
- Is unbelievably raw at this point. As creative as the Ducks offense has been under Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich, they still haven’t found a way to really unlock his true playmaking potential.
- Doesn’t have a lot of experience running the full route tree. Has been somewhat limited in the different routes he’s run.
- Needs to get much stronger, especially for blocking purposes in the NFL.
- Has a tendency to jump off the snap and getting high. Doesn’t necessarily explode off the ball, but pops.
- Is not the tremendous blocker out of the backfield like he is when playing in-line. Doesn’t block particularly well in space.
- Maturity could be an issue with some teams after a series of tweets about a government conspiracy after the Sandy Hook shootings.
- Had a tendency to just disappear on film, sometimes for games at a time. Not a consistent playmaker game in and game out, which could actually be the fault of the offensive scheme.
The Ducks offense might be losing coach Kelly, but it might actually take a jump in production due to absurd amount of athletes playing the skill positions.
First-year head coach Helfrich would be wise to game plan for Lyerla more and make sure they’re getting the ball in his hands. I’d predict somewhere in the range of 10-plus touchdown receptions, and possibly some more carries out of the backfield this year for Lyerla, who should be up for the Mackey Award after this season.
Lyerla will certainly have the attention of NFL scouts this season, but he still has a long way to go. He’s very raw and hasn’t locked into mastering one position yet, which he’ll have to do at the next level.
But there’s no denying this kid is a freak athlete, and has the potential to be one of the best tight ends in the league. Obviously, going to a team with a creative offensive mind would serve Lyerla well (like reuniting with Kelly in Philadelphia, perhaps?).
2014 NFL Draft Projection: Mid to late first round after exploding at the Combine.