Heading into the draft, the New England Patriots were thought to be a team that would seriously consider drafting a TE at some point. Instead, they elected to pass on using a draft pick at TE, and stocking up on undrafted free agents at the position. The free agents they chose to bring in, Asa Watson and Justin Jones, have some size and other qualities that can perhaps be developed, but neither of them have much proven college production to speak of.
That brings me to Colt Lyerla. Lyerla, who signed with the Green Bay Packers today as an undrafted free agent, has everything to thrive at the NFL level. He has good size at 6-foot-4, 242 pounds, and he has very good speed for a big guy as well. He ran a 4.61 40-yard dash time at the combine, and had a 39 inch vertical leap, four inches better than any other TE at the combine.
The most impressive thing about Lyerla though, aside from his freakish athleticism and height, is his ability on the field. Although he didn’t play much as a member of the Oregon Ducks, when he touched the football, special things happened for the team. In fact, according to Sports-reference.com, he had 50 total plays from scrimmage for 659 yards, 13 TDs and averaged 13.2 yards per play in his college career.
To put those numbers into perspective, that means that he scored a touchdown on 26 percent of his plays in college, a truly staggering number. Lyerla also lined up at RB, TE and WR during his college career, showing that he is versatile and could give opposing defenses fits in a multitude of ways at the next level.
Now, Lyerla is certainly not without risk for a team as he has some definite baggage, perhaps the most of any other player coming out of this year’s draft. He plead guilty to possession of cocaine, and he had his driver’s license suspended on Oct. 11, 2013 after receiving four driving tickets within 24 months.
Given those facts, he is certainly a significant risk for a team to take on, but his talent should outweigh any red flags he may have as few talent evaluators have questioned what he can bring to the table on the field.
As for the Patriots, they go into the season with a need at the position with Rob Gronkowski uncertain and quite frankly unlikely, to start the upcoming season on time. Also, Michael Hoomanawanui has not proven to be the big pass catching threat that many hoped he would be for the team.
New England could have used a guy like Lyerla to bring some big play ability to the Patriots offense, but instead the team felt he was too big of a risk to take on. This is most likely due to the Aaron Hernandez fiasco that they are still having to come to grips with as an organization.
However, as a football operation you cannot allow one rare circumstance to prevent you from acquiring talent that can help your football team, even if that player has some red flags. By passing up on Lyerla, the Pats allowed the Packers to add a potential high impact player to fill a big need for them with Jermichael Finley‘s health up in the air.
The Packers were already a strong team, but with the addition of Lyerla, it should make them that much stronger. Passing up on him could definitely prove to be costly for New England, especially when it travels to Lambeau field to take on GB later in the 2014 regular season.