I remember reading about Kansas State wide receiver Kevin Lockett as one of Mel Kiper’s underrated players in a draft guide from 1997. The second-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs had a career with four teams, amassing eight starts, 130 catches, 1,738 yards, eight touchdowns, and seven fumbles. Although not a storied NFL career, any player who earns a contract for almost seven seasons has achieved an impressive accomplishment.
Lockett’s career is a reminder that the NFL Draft is not only about picking stars. No matter how much broadcast and print media (understandably) wants to add this corporate-influenced, revenue-generating pixie dust to the process, most quality teams are comprised of role players.
Fast-forward 17 years to Kansas State, and there’s now a second-generation Lockett lighting up Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan. Tyler Lockett, a return specialist and receiver, has NFL potential. Blessed with more speed than his father, Tyler is 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, which is an inch shorter and 11 pounds lighter than his father’s listed NFL size.
Despite the protests of those who engage in the discouraged practice of statistically over-fitting height/weight data to determine the viability of NFL receiver prospects, Lockett’s dimensions fall within an acceptable and productive pro receiver archetype. Antonio Brown, DeSean Jackson, Marvin Harrison, Ernest Givins, Emmanuel Sanders, Gary Clark, Steve Largent, Mark Clayton, and Isaac Bruce were all fine weapons who weighed less than 190 pounds.
What matters most is how well Lockett uses his athleticism to perform on the field. In this respect, the Kansas State Wildcat has the advantage of being a good return specialist. Special teams play is a valuable skill for a player to earn an extended audition with a team while he earns a foothold as a professional. This is a route that receivers like Brown, Givins, and Jackson — as well as other receivers not in this archetype such as Hines Ward, Brandon Lloyd, and Tim Brown — took to establish themselves as NFL starters.
The point of this article is not whether Lockett develops into a true contributor at wide receiver. It is to make the statement that desirable “projects” aren’t always the ideal, unrefined, athletic specimens. There’s a general perception that talent development is an instant recipe where the perfect athlete is the central ingredient awaiting coaches and veteran teammates to pour in the knowledge and stir.
Lockett may not have the height, weight, or speed of UNLV’s Devante Davis — a more popular prototype for the raw prospect at this position — but the receiver displays enough potential, even during his mistakes, to consider him a player capable of developing into a starter. This week’s Futures shows why many of Lockett’s flaws are correctable and why many of his talents are desirable.