Welcome to the preview of what is the most underrated position when it comes to fantasy football and scouting future prospects in your leagues … it’s the tight ends. These players can often make or break your season. If you find a gem, you get a major boost to go alongside your top selections. If you end up picking some busts, then you are scrambling to make up the missing points week after week. So, where do you start when it comes to finding that roster-changing player? Yep, it’s the NFL draft.
In the forthcoming days, I will breakdown my top 10 tight ends in the 2014 NFL Draft.
6. Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon (6-4, 242)
The questions surrounding Colt Lyerla is around his character, not his abilities on the field. I personally think his abilities on the field give him a second round grade. But, it is his character that pushes him to being a fourth or fifth rounder (with some teams taking him off their draft boards all together).
Before we breakdown his character concerns, let’s break down his play on the field. Lyerla is a Swiss Army knife when it comes to his offensive game. He can and is willing to be lined up anywhere and is able to produce from multiple places on the field. He is an adept receiver that caught 25 passes for 392 yards and six scores in his last full season with the Ducks (2012). He has also shown the ability to be a runner (with two scores in college).
Back to the receiving front, he has the speed to blow by linebackers and the size to be a matchup problem with safeties in the middle of the field (tough guy that will keep working the middle of the field). Lyerla was the best jumper among tight ends at the NFL Combine and will win a majority of jump balls. He is explosive after the catch with top-end elusiveness to make defenders miss in the open field and the toughness to just run over defenders down the field. He is a smooth operator transitioning up field and getting out of breaks. He is great at adjusting to the quarterback and changing directions to get open. He does struggle in running consistent routes and releasing down the field. He has the ability to improve his fakes in routes to find the open spaces. There are concerns with his ability to be consistent in catching the ball and has shown that through big drops in the past. Blocking is solid, but needs to work on leverage and his hands.
So, as you can see, he can be a major threat in the offensive game. Now on to the reason he is falling down the draft boards. There are questions concerning his ability to handle authority and his commitment to football overall. The Oregon head coach described Lyerla’s absence as “circumstances” following the Tennessee game in 2013, which did not sit well with Lyerla. He was then suspended for the game against Colorado for violating team rules. The next week Lyerla was gone from the program. According to some people, it was for “personal reasons.” According to others, he was dismissed from the team for an unspecified rules violation (disputed by his agent as a mutual decision on leaving the team). In October of 2013, he was charged with unlawful possession of cocaine (using in public in his car) and interfering with a police officer; he pled guilty to cocaine possession in December and was sentenced to 10 days in jail from the incident. All of these reports are bad news to any potential NFL player and would scare every NFL executive from picking him.
But, it was what happened in March of 2013 that is the biggest red flag and something that is despicable. Lyerla tweeted multiple times saying that the horrific mass shooting at the Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut were the result of a governmental conspiracy. According to Graham Watson of Yahoo! Sports, one tweet said that: “The parents of the kids that supposedly died in the sandy hook situation are liars.” Oregon called the tweets “insensitive and offensive,” but kept him in the program at the time.
Lyerla is a top prospect without the character concerns. He has the natural ability to be a game changer, a guy that can break open a defense with his speed and win the 50-50 ball with his leaping ability. But, his off-the-field decisions have NFL executives worried. One of these incidents makes you fall down the draft board. The question is: where does Lyerla fall with all of these issues surrounding him? I feel a team will take a chance on him in the fourth or fifth round and, if he turns around his life, he will be a major steal that late in the draft (but that is a major if).