Easily the best player on the 2014 Kansas State Wildcats, wide receiver/kick returner Tyler Lockett also happens to be the Wildcats most-hyped pro prospect since Arthur Brown graduated following the 2012 season. Starting as a true freshman back in 2011, Tyler Lockett went on to set 17 school records including career receptions, touchdowns, and yards. Let's examine Lockett's skill set and see where most experts have Lockett projected to go in the NFL draft.
You can't talk about Lockett's strengths and not immediately drop your jaw at his route running abilities. Seriously, just look at this:
That route was against current NFL cornerback Jason Verrett -- last year's 25th overall pick Jason Verrett -- and Lockett left him searching for his jockstrap somewhere near the 40 yard line. That video is simply the very best example of Lockett's best skill. His body control and ability to sell a route with 100% accuracy only to move seamlessly into his next move is maddening to opposing defenders.
Since I'm running out of adjectives to describe just how mesmerizing I find Lockett's route running, let me direct you to MNchiefsfan's article "Know your 2015 NFL Draft crush" over at Arrowhead Pride.
Lockett has breakaway speed. He has run like the cops are chasing you speed, as Gus Johnson would say. At the NFL combine he was the 5th fastest runner posting a 4.4 40 time, besting other top WR prospects such as: Amari Cooper, Sammie Coates, Antwan Goodley, and Dorial Green-Beckham. Lockett also posted the fastest 60 yard shuttle time of any receiver at the combine. With the type of speed he displays, Lockett could immediatly be an impact player on special teams, as evidenced by his six career return touchdowns at Kansas State.
While Lockett displays great body control and excellent position while running his routes, he had a tendency to use his body to secure passes. Two plays from last season stand out distinctively in my mind. The first I'm sure many will remember was the opening drive in the Auburn game where Lockett had an easy touchdown reception only to allow the Jake Waters fastball to bounce off his chest, into the air, and then watch helplessly as the ball landed straight in an Auburn defenders hands.
Wildcat fans turn away; this will bring back nightmares:
The other was a similar play in the UCLA game. This time he doesn't allow the ball to get into his body, but he simply lets it go through his hands. The video does show another example of superb route skills though.
Working in Lockett's favor: he obviously worked on this during preparation for the Combine, and was a perfect 14-for-14 on hands catches during the gauntlet drill. That demonstrates that he has the ability to catch well with his hands. The question will be whether that habit sticks. Overall, his pass catching skills are by no means horrendous, but he's inconsistent enough that it will cast doubt for some NFL GM's.
The other knock against Lockett is his lack of size. Standing only 5'10", Lockett's size would seem to pigeon hole him into a slot receiver. However, I think he compares most closely to a Steve Smith type player. Smith is another shorter receiver who was able to excel on the outside due to his impressive combination of speed, route skills and strength. Lockett played both inside and out in college, and I believe any offensive coordinator would love to have the option to mix and match that Lockett brings. That said, the NFL has a much more conservative mindset as compared to college offenses, and many NFL GMs will be hard-pressed to overlook his lack of height.
Most NFL Mock Drafts have Tyler Lockett going anywhere from the second round to the fourth. Examples include the second round (draftteck.com) to the Cleveland Browns, the third round (foxsports.com) to the Minnesota Vikings, and even the fourth round (walterfootball.com) to the San Diego Chargers.
Lockett has also been linked to the Kansas City Chiefs (arrowheadpride.com), the Indianapolis Colts (colts.com), and the Cleveland Browns (dawgsbynature.com) through various workouts. I'm certain most people on Bring on the Cats would go ga-ga over the thought of Lockett suiting up in the red and gold this coming fall, but I find it a little too Disney sports movie to believe he will actually be drafted by them. I'm going to go off the wall a bit and predict a team like the Philadelphia Eagles or the Houston Texans will take Lockett in the third round. Wherever Lockett ends up, that team is sure to get one of the more underrated players heading into the 2015 NFL draft.
Editor's Note: All GIFs courtesy of draftbreakdown.com