Every year there are one or two college players with a wealth of talent who seem like a huge boom or bust in the NFL draft, not because of work ethic but off-the-field problems. Which teams could take that risk on Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla?
Lyerla is a supremely talented prospect who played for a terrific program at Oregon but for still unknown reasons had a falling out with the coaching staff, resulting in his departure from the program and declaring himself for the NFL draft. Quitters are often frowned upon in pro football, but with no inside knowledge of the situation and all the skill he has, most expect somebody to take a chance on him. The first team that will likely jump right to the front of the line is the Arizona Cardinals. Biggest reason of all of course is they’ve had experience bringing in troubled but talented players before with great success. Rookie defensive back Tyrann Mathieu had a very bad falling out at LSU but the Cardinals saw his obvious talent and took him on day two last April. He has since become one of their best playmakers on defense. Given how much Arizona needs an upgrade at tight end, taking Lyerla makes a ton of sense after their home run with Mathieu.
GM Phil Emery has proven through two drafts that he isn’t afraid to play aggressively, whether it’s taking players out of position like Shea McClellin or talented players with limited experience and complicated pasts like rookie Kyle Long. One constant among those choices is athletic skill. He loves athletes. Lyerla is raw but at 6’5″, 246 lbs he can run under a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash. That size-speed combination is rare, which is why he was such a big play threat for Oregon. The Bears do have Martellus Bennett on the roster, but Lyerla’s physical skill would be hard to pass up in the second or third rounds.
New England Patriots
Questionable picks never bother New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. He goes after players he thinks can become dynamic in his teams’ system. Besides that he recognizes the value of tight ends after drafting Rob Gronkowski and the now incriminated Aaron Hernandez. Lyerla has a stigma having over him, but both those talents did as well back in 2010 before they became Pro Bowl stars. Belichick would have to weigh the risks carefully but he is in need of a replacement for Hernandez, and Lyerla is that good.
New York Giants
Eli Manning loves to use tight ends in his offenses. From Jeremy Shockey to Jake Ballard, and Martellus Bennett he has found great success from that position. Unfortunately their latest cheap purchase in Brandon Myers has not worked out, leading some to think the time is about right to invest a little more heavily at the position. Lyerla may have some personality problems but if he came to New York he would instantly be under the watchful eye of head coach Tom Coughlin and highly respected tight ends coach Michael Pope. If anybody can get the most out of what Lyerla could be, it is those two stern but proven teachers.
While not typically a team that delves into questionable picks, the Atlanta Falcons have an offensive crisis brewing. Julio Jones will return next year from a bad foot injury. Roddy White has experienced a steep decline in his production due to age and ailments of his own. Worst of all, future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez plans to retire after 2013. Getting a quality playmaker on offense has to top their list of priorities. Colt Lyerla might not be the first option, but Atlanta has the coaching staff in place to make it work.