With all of the weapons at the disposal of the Oregon offense, it is not all that surprising that there are some that will occasionally be underutilized but it is a little shocking just how much they did not opt to use Colt Lyerla as a receiver in the passing game. The talented tight end is impressive with his athleticism and has demonstrated the ability to be a good receiver in limited opportunities but he has been predominately used as a blocker for the Ducks and done a pretty good job in that role. As a freshman, Lyerla caught seven passes; five for touchdowns. In a tight end and H-Back, Lyerla caught twenty five passes for 392 yards and six more touchdowns with 13 carries for 77 yards and another touchdown as a sophomore. He only played 3 games as a junior before opting to leave the program.
Lyerla’s situation this year has put his stock in flux with his decision to leave the Oregon program. He has signed with an agency and declared for the draft. The talent for Lyerla had some considering him as a first round prospect, but now having quit the Oregon football team and multiple reports talking about his issues off of the field, it is difficult to know where Lyerla picked and it will largely depend on how teams view his issues. There will be teams that take him off of their draft board entirely and some who are looking at Lyerla as an opportunity to get big time talent at a cheap price. At this point, it seems like Lyerla will go on day three, but it is hard to know and he could become a game of chicken for teams when the draft finally does arrive.
Vitals & Build
Lyerla is listed at 6’5” 250lbs at this point and that number is different depending on where one looks. Lyerla is a pretty explosive player who can get up the field quickly and is fluid in terms of his ability to contort his body and make catches. His physical potential seems pretty good as he has the frame to continue adding strength without sacrificing athleticism. He is still undersized for the NFL as an inline tight end at this point but he should be big enough by the time he enters the draft.
Route Running & Technique
From a stance point of view, Lyerla tends to tip his pitches. When he is lined up inline, he has a flat back when he is going out for passes and has his butt down much lower when he is going to block. The flat back stance allows him to be more explosive off of the line while the frog stance allows him to have a rising blow and get more out of his length strength going upward. Ultimately, he is going to want to pick a stance and go with it and the best one is the flat back stance, so that is something he needs to work on this coming season and in the future.
When he releases into routes, he fires off the ball extremely quickly and effectively. As fast as he is with his speed, he is actually even quicker and his first couple steps are fantastic. Often times, he is able to get behind the defender in those first few steps. He does a fantastic job of fighting through contact and staying on his line so that he is able to be on top of the player covering him. Lyerla is not a burner but he is fast enough to stretch the field and make plays down the field.
Lyerla does a good job of finding holes in the zone, settling and giving his quarterback a big target to throw the ball. Whether that means cutting a route off or finding a spot in the end zone with a sight line to the quarterback, he seems to understand the nuances of attacking zone coverage as a tight end and making the most of his body and size.
Lyerla has natural hands and demonstrated a large catch radius in limited opportunities. He makes the most of his height and is able to box out opponents as well as jump and catch the ball over his head. Lyerla has also shown the ability catch the ball on the run heading down the field. There is nothing to suggest that Lyerla has anything but good hands to this point but the limited number of opportunities make it hard to say that he is a tremendously reliable player right now. The evidence, however limited, suggests that fact, but there needs to be more evidence on the field.
Run After Catch
Lyerla has the ability to run after the catch but it is largely limited to catching the ball while he is already heading down the field. He makes a solid adjustment from pass catcher to receiver and while he has good acceleration, his speed is not overwhelming. Lyerla will gain yards but he is not someone who is a huge homerun threat with the ball in his hands.
When it comes to catching the ball with his shoulders square to the line, he is not a guy who will get much if anymore yardage, but that is to be expected from a tight end. He will pick up the first down or make the catch in the end zone which is exactly what teams want from him.
Lyerla is not ideally built for the inline tight end spot and it is clear in his blocking, but he does do an admirable job and brings a ton of effort. Adding additional strength and being able to utilize it will make it so he does not need to lean forward as much and potentially get off balance, but he is a good positional blocker. He gets in position and gets the right angle for the most part and works to turn the opponent to create an obvious running lane for the running game and works to push a guy outside of the play as a pass blocker.
He will hold his ground against guys the same size or smaller than he is and can occasionally drive opponents off the ball when he gets in position. When his opponent is bigger and stronger, he does his best to hold up but it is not always enough. Lyerla shows a lot of good fundamental technique and gets a nice stance as a blocker that is balanced laterally, so when he adds strength, it should really make blocking much easier for him. If he is not forced to strain going forward to hold up against power, he will be more able to handle working laterally in pass protection. Whether from the tight end spot or out of the backfield, Lyerla does a good job of getting to his spot and landing his block near the line of scrimmage or at the second level. He rarely makes the mistake of lunging at the block and misses.
Lyerla is not going to be a bulldozer at the tight spot no matter what he does but he could be an adequate blocker in the NFL that is going to do the right thing and give the effort teams want to see from the position but is there as more of a receiving threat than as a blocker. He is not likely to get a team’s quarterback or running back killed and is doing to do his job to the best of his ability every play, so while is slightly undersized, he should add the strength to function in that role so that he is not a liability as a blocker.
About the only situation he would not fit really well into would be a power running team that expects Lyerla to be their main tight end as a blocker. He would be a great fit as a complement to a bigger, stronger player that is better suited to sit in there and block that allows him to work in the slot or on the other side of the line and create plays. Beyond that, the only thing that limits Lyerla in the NFL is the imagination and creativity of the team he goes. He can play tight end inline or in the slot as well as lining up in the backfield as an H-Back. He brings a ton of versatility and potentially could save a team roster space which is always a valuable asset.
Lyerla’s game is reminiscent of former Iowa Hawkeye Dallas Clark. Clark was a long time Colt and one of Peyton Manning’s most reliable receiving threats in that offense. He was never an overwhelming blocker and Lyerla is probably going to be better when he gets to the NFL in that regard, but he was just a reliable player who found ways to make plays going down the field and finding holes in the defense just like Lyerla does.
Lyerla has demonstrated a lot of ability and talent and the only thing that is really holding him back at this point is him. The off field concerns are there and they need to be vetted. Depending on how teams evaluate him, some teams could take him off of their board entirely with others feeling pretty good about what he can do for their team. Projecting his draft prospects is incredibly difficult at this point, but there is no question he has a ton of talent on the field. There is also little doubt someone will give him a shot to play in the NFL; the question is which team and at what value.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com