A few years ago Tyler Lockett was hearing his named called in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Lockett left a big hole on the outside for the Kansas State Wildcats, one that we all knew was going to be difficult to fill.
Enter Deante Burton, a Manhattan product who joined the K-State program as a prized 3-star recruit in 2012. Burton redshirted the Big 12 Championship season, and then began to see spot work during the next two seasons while Lockett, Tramaine Thompson, and Curry Sexton lit up Big 12 defensive backs while catching passes from Jake Waters. Burton caught just 17 passes for 171 yards in his 2014 sophomore campaign while watching Lockett and Sexton each reach over 1,000 yards.
And then 2015 happened. Burton was poised to become WR1, set-up by tutelage from Lockett and receivers coach Andre Coleman. He had a decent showing in the spring and appeared ready to take on the load. Unfortunately, events conspired around Burton to cause a fairly meager 2015 campaign. Injuries depleted the Wildcats, notably losing season-starting QB Jesse Ertz on the second play of the season, before going through a string of QBs throughout the year. At one point, Burton was catching passes from fellow WR Kody Cook, who had been pressed into service as the 4th-string QB. Lack of consistency at the QB position really hurt Burton in 2015, as did some big drops that caused consternation in himself and fans. His biggest/worst moment of 2015 might have been beating OU CB Zack Sanchez for what could have been a big gain in the opening moments of the game, only to have QB Joe Hubener put it just out of his reach. Burton finished the 2015 campaign with 510 yards on 38 catches with 4 TDs, leading the K-State WR corps in all categories (yeah, it was that bad).
But Deante didn’t give up, and put in a ton of work heading into 2016 — reports out of winter camps indicated he was spending hours catching passes from the JUGS machine. 2016 also brought him some much-needed assistance in the form of a fully-healthy Jesse Ertz and a viable second-option target in JUCO transfer WR Byron Pringle. Through the 2016 campaign, Burton finally began to show the potential that had scouts drooling way back in 2012 and even started to make a name for himself in NFL draft circles. A sideline catch against TCU (pictured above, it was ruled out-of-bounds, but replay was inconclusive) grabbed big attention; coupled with his size (6’2” 200lbs) and speed (4.53 - 40), Burton started getting even more attention. Burton’s numbers came down with the emergence of Pringle, posting 404 yards on 29 catches and one TD, but his consistency rose and drops fell.
Heading into the 2017 NFL Draft, Burton has an outside shot at being called in a late round. His size and speed make him a viable NFL receiver, and he has the intangibles that come from five years under the tutelage of Head Coach Bill Snyder and coach Coleman: things like hard work, unselfishness — he can block as well as catch — and a team-first attitude. It is, however, more likely that Burton will end up as an undrafted free agent; regardless, the team that grabs this WR will be getting a good one.