There’s no denying the talent of former Oregon Ducks tight end Colt Lyerla. Whether you like him or not, no one can deny the physical gifts that the big guy upstairs presented the young man from tiny Hillsboro, Oregon. Here’s a very real fact: Lyerla is one of the top-five athletes in the 2014 NFL Draft class.
Another very real fact: Lyerla may not be even be selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. What gives?
Standing 6-foot 5, 230-pounds, Lyerla was a five-star prospect in the 2011 recruiting class as he was considered one of the best athletes in the country, and was drawing comparisons to future NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher. Even with his impressive stature, he could still run a low 4.5. In one step, he could jump on top of a 62-inch plyo-box (Google the video if you don’t believe me).
He could play multiple positions (defensive end, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, wide receiver, tight end, H-back, running back and fullback) all at a very high level, though was relegated mostly to tight end in Eugene. Granted, he got some looks at receiver, running back and full back in the Ducks’ high-flying video game-like offense, but he was never used to full capacity.
Give former head coach Chip Kelly and current top Duck Mark Helfrich credit — they know offense and they know how to expose defenses. But, neither of the two could fully maximize the potential of Lyerla. Through more than two seasons, Lyerla only accumulated 659 yards from scrimmage (both rushing and receiving). At this point, despite his lack of Oregon-like numbers on a stat sheet, his physical skills alone would’ve put him in contention for a first-round selection in the NFL Draft.
Then came the implosion.
First came a flood of tweets about the Sandy Hook school shooting, claiming it to be a conspiracy. Then he began accusing the parents of the slain students of lying. Then he reportedly began showing up late or was absent entirely for meetings and practices, leading to a suspension from Helfrich. Then, Lyerla left the Oregon program out of the blue, just walking out.
But Lyerla couldn’t, or wouldn’t stop there. It finally culminated with his recent arrest for unlawful possession of cocaine and interfering with a police officer — not exactly impressive to NFL personnel execs.
So where are we at? Let’s see, he’s got an extraordinary physical skill set with a penchant for totally blowing up out of seemingly nowhere. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone like this in the NFL. In fact, there are multiple cases of characters like this getting multiple second-chances in the league.
But where does this put Lyerla at for the draft? It’s going to depend on what happens between now and May. If there’s one more slip-up, it’s over for him. But if he completes his treatment at a court-ordered rehab facility, keeps his nose clean (pun intended), tests out very well for scouts and interviews well, he could still salvage some draft stock.
It’s a total uphill battle though, even when he’s cleared his name legally. Staying in shape and testing well physically won’t be the hardest part as his agent will pay for his training prior to the draft. It’ll be proving that he’s not a psycho with a penchant for blowing up. Imagine all of the psychological exams he’ll be put through to test his mental stability. Imagine the sea of questions scouts are going to have for him by the time they actually get to talk to him.
It’ll be interesting to follow Lylera between now and May. If he does everything perfectly between now and then, the highest I see him going is probably in the third round. Worst case? He goes undrafted, where he’ll be one of the most highly sought-after free agents. One way or another, he’ll be in the NFL next year. How he gets there and how long he lasts are the real questions.