Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett offers talent, high character to NFL

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Former Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett proved records are made to be broken.

The dual-threat Lockett, a native of Tulsa, Okla., established a whopping 17 school records by the time he concluded an accomplished four-year career in Manhattan, Kan.

Baylor cornerback Ryan Reid, left, tackles Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Baylor cornerback Ryan Reid, left, tackles Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Among the records set by Lockett include receptions (249), yards receiving (3,710), receiving touchdowns (29), 100-yard receiving games (17), kickoff-return attempts (77) and kickoff-return yards (2,196).

Bumped off numerous previous No. 1 spots is a who’s who in school history, including Jordy Nelson, Quincy Morgan, Dimitrie Scott and Brandon Banks.

Even Lockett’s father, Kevin, wasn’t immune to the assault after his previous K-State marks in career receptions (217), yards receiving (3,032) and touchdowns (26) fell to his son.

And like so many of the former Wildcats whose records were broken, Lockett now prepares to follow in their footsteps to the NFL.

“You see a lot of great people like that who helped pave the way, showing that Kansas State players can match up with anybody in the league,” Lockett told ChiefsDigest.com following his Pro Day workout on March 10. “And so just being able to follow in their footsteps, like I said, they paved the way.”

Lockett’s father, a second-round pick (47th overall) of the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1997 draft, believes that opportunity will come for his son during the NFL Draft.

“I think he’s done everything he could possibly do up to this point to prove to those decision makers on each team that he has the ability to compete at the professional level,” Kevin Lockett said in a telephone interview.

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CBS Sports and NFLDraftScout.com currently rank Lockett as the 12th-best wide receiver of the 2015 draft class and project him as a second- or third-round pick.

Ask CBS Sports senior draft analyst Rob Rang the first thing that comes to his mind when hearing Lockett’s name and the inquiry receives more than one response.

“Production, consistency, dynamic athletic ability, slot receiver and return man,” Rang said in a telephone interview. “Just big-play ability.”

Dan Shonka, a former NFL scout and now general manager of Ourlads.com scouting services, agreed with Rang’s assessment during an email exchange with ChiefsDigest.com.

“Explosive athlete who can change direction and reach elite level of speed suddenly,” Shonka said. “Quality and consistent route runner that can consistently run himself open. Good ball skills, can pluck the ball out of the air with strong hands. Dangerous after the catch. Elusive in the open field with good vision and the speed to run away from defensive backs. Versatile athlete with experience in several different roles on offense. Top-tier return ability.”

But with the good attributes Lockett possesses are concerns from draft prognosticators.

Shonka and Rang point out dropped passes as a potential issue at the next level, and two potential touchdowns come to immediate mind.

Lockett dropped what should have been a score during K-State’s bowl game against Michigan in 2013, and he had a catchable pass deflect off his hands in the end zone that led to a game-changing interception against Auburn in 2014.

Still, arguably the largest area causing apprehension with analysts surrounds Lockett’s 5-10, 182-pound frame.

“Lacks the size and strength to mix it up with NFL defenders,” Shonka said. “Can be thrown around at the line of scrimmage by a quality press corner. Can be overshadowed in traffic. Won’t out-physical anyone in traffic. Lacks presence as a blocker.”

Rang echoed Shonka’s opinion.

“In terms of running the route tree and things of that nature, I think Tyler Lockett can do that,” Rang said. “It’s a question can he do it with a 6-1, 200-pound NFL corner, whom he will be engaged with the entire time.”

The knock on Lockett’s size opens the debate how teams evaluate where he fits in a specific offensive scheme.

Whether he projects solely as a slot wide receiver or can line up on the outside against press-man coverage in the NFL will be at the discretion of the team ultimately selecting him.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, however, told ChiefsDigest.com on the final day of media availability at the NFL Scouting Combine that Lockett’s 4.40 40-yard dash time in Indianapolis should alleviate a lot of concerns.

“I thought what it did was differentiate himself from slot receivers,” Mayock said on Feb. 21. “If you’re going to put him in there with Jamison Crowder from Duke – and I had him slotted him in there together – I knew off tape that Crowder was going to be quicker than fast and I thought Lockett was going to run fast. And that’s what happened today. Crowder was like 4.56, plus or minus, so Crowder is kind of a slot receiver with great return skills. Lockett, by virtue of running 4.40 and being a little bigger, is a slot, he’s outside, he’s a return guy. He helped himself because he ran 4.40, no doubt about it.”

Count former K-State cornerback Randall Evans as another person who doesn’t agree with the size argument when it comes to his teammate.

The 6-0, 190-pound Evans said in a telephone interview he locked up numerous times at the line of scrimmage against Lockett during practices since both arrived on campus in 2011.

And those experiences provided a challenge for Evans, who is also preparing for the NFL Draft.

“When you cover Tyler Lockett, you just have to make sure to be ready to run,” Evans said. “You have to be ready to make sure you can stick with his speed. Even though they’re claiming he’s small, Lockett is one of the fastest and quickest guys I have stuck in my whole career out of any other schools I’ve played. Knocking his size, it’s not all about his size. I’d rather stick a bigger receiver than Tyler Lockett at the end of the day, because I can easily stick with a big receiver.”

Lockett said after his Pro Day workout he doesn’t read a lot of his news coverage, but he admits to being aware of things being said.

“Sometimes you hear people say great things about you, but then they’re still not for you,” Lockett said. “It’s always been like that for me, so whether I get all the credit, whether I don’t get all the credit, it’s nothing new to me. Regardless, I’m still hungry, I’m still going to be motivated and determined to do what I do. That stuff doesn’t get me out of my element at all.”

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From being K-State’s first four-year All-American to a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection by The Associated Press, Lockett made it look easy en route to becoming the most-prolific wide receiver and kickoff returner in school history.

The former Wildcat recently capped off his college career by winning The Jet Award, which recognizes the best return specialist in NCAA Division I.

Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) breaks away from Texas Tech defensive back Keenon Ward (15) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) breaks away from Texas Tech defensive back Keenon Ward (15) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Another part of the award criteria states the recipient “must also show leadership, courage, desire and respect for authority and discipline.”

That description more than fits Lockett, according to two beat reporters covering the K-State football team.

“Probably the most humble athlete I’ve interviewed,” said Kelly McHugh, freelance sports writer and reporter for K-State Sports. “He’s a great kid.”

D. Scott Fritchen, a longtime beat writer for Powercat Illustrated and GoPowerCat.com, agreed.

“One of the most caring football players I’ve covered in 20 years,” Fritchen said in a telephone interview. “Great heart, tremendous leader, passionate about the team and a tremendous ambassador to K-State athletics.”

Midwest City High School football coach Darrell Hall, who coached Lockett’s senior season at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, recalled with fondness how Lockett would lead by example on the football field.

He adds there is a contrast to Lockett’s off-field demeanor to when he’s tearing it up on the football field.

“He’s so soft-spoken,” Hall said in a telephone interview, “but then he puts the pads on and he’s a whole different animal, a whole different creature.”

Hall attributes Lockett’s low-key, off-field demeanor to his upbringing within a strong family foundation.

Lockett also credits the K-State coaching staff for impressing upon him the importance to stay grounded regardless of environment as he prepares for the next level.

“Coach (Bill) Snyder teaches you to represent yourself,” Lockett said, “how to remain humble throughout every situation or circumstance, and now it’s just me going out there doing what I do best. At the end of the day, it’s just football. Once you realize that and don’t treat it bigger than what it really is, it’s easier for you to play your game. It’s easier for you to be at your best.”

Excelling was something Lockett didn’t have a problem with at K-State, and Hall always believed his former star player would enjoy success.

“There was never a doubt a mind in my mind,” Hall said. “I brag about him. He’ll be the first guy I’ve coached that went to the NFL and I’ve coached a lot of great athletes and my share of Division I guys. He’s a kid that just put in the extra and did the intangible things to make it.”

Of course, being the son a former NFL player and the nephew of Aaron Lockett, a former NFL and CFL player, certainly didn’t hurt in development.

The 22-year-old Lockett grew up around the game watching his father and uncle play at K-State, and then professional football. He learned first-hand how to approach and improve his craft as a wide receiver.

“I think he picked it up naturally,” Lockett’s father, Kevin, said. “But there were obviously things I showed him and my brother showed him that I think he’s been able to incorporate into his own game. I think what people are going to realize wherever Tyler gets drafted is they’ll have a true student of the game. They’ve got someone who is very well-accomplished from a mental approach and theoretical approach to how you play the game of football.”

Kevin Lockett said what stands out about his son is the ability to retrieve information on the football field and process it quickly.

“He understands what defenses are trying to take away,” Lockett’s father said. “He understands how to read cover angles, he understands how to read man versus zone and find the hole in the defense. And a lot of that is his football IQ; it’s extremely high.”

With so much talent in the family and respective decorated playing careers at K-State, it could only be natural to wonder who the best wide receiver among the three former Wildcats is.

A slight pause, and then a rational response from Lockett’s father.

“I think we’re all different,” he said. “I think each of us have our own aspect that made us good players. Total package, I think you look at Tyler because he has the ability to excel at the collegiate level as a wide receiver and as a returner. My brother excelled predominately as a returner, but also a bit as a receiver. I excelled as a receiver, but not as a returner. I think Tyler has a combination of the best of both myself and Aaron, and part of that is knowledge and information we passed down. A good part of that is his ability to be a good football player.”

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Lockett has the talent and record-setting numbers to offer in the upcoming NFL Draft, and he will have more than a fair share of potential suitors, especially teams in need of a wide receiver.

Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) before the first half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa State Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Justin Hayworth)

Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) before the first half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa State Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Justin Hayworth)

That process began after K-State’s Pro Day, which featured Lockett, Evans, quarterback Jake Waters, center B.J. Finney, defensive end/linebacker Ryan Mueller, wide receiver Curry Sexton, linebacker Jonathan Truman, defensive tackle Valentino Coleman, cornerback Carl Miles and running back Robert Rose.

The workout was attended by the Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers, Tennessee Titans and Washington.

While he wouldn’t offer specifics, Lockett said “there are a couple” of teams scheduled for visits and workouts ahead of the draft.

He also revealed he had a formal interview with the Chiefs at the Combine, as previously reported by ChiefsDigest.com.

Kansas City offers immediate intrigue considering the origins of his father’s NFL career.

“My dad got picked in the second round, so honestly you just got to wait and see what Andy Reid does,” Lockett said. “He’s a great coach, and if they give me an opportunity I’d love to play for them. But at the end of the day, it’s about which team gives you the opportunity. Whoever calls my name, I’ll be ready to play.”

Still, there are some emotional ties to Kansas City as a potential landing spot for the Lockett family.

“From a Chiefs perspective, there’s a large part of my heart that would love to see him come to Kansas City and be drafted here,” Kevin Lockett said. “Not necessarily to follow in my footsteps, but for our family to be able to see each game, for our kids to be able to support him week-in and week-out. And I know he would be one with of the top-notch organizations all the way from ownership to the bottom.”

Ultimately, the family patriarch wants what is best for his son whether it comes with the Chiefs or another NFL team.

“There’s another side of me that says he’s followed in our footsteps for so long, maybe it’s time for him to create his own path,” Kevin Lockett said. “But either way, whatever happens we just want him to end up with a really good organization that’s run really well, very similar to the Chiefs organization, and really gives him the best chance to be successful and one where he can provide a lot of value back to that organization.”

The Locketts plan to hold a low-key gathering, exclusive to immediate family and close family friends, at an undisclosed location during the NFL Draft.

There will likely be anxious moments as the picks are announced throughout the three-day event, but it is a virtual certainty Lockett will hear his name called.

What should help calm Lockett’s emotions during the nerve-wracking process is having a father and uncle who have been through the process.

“For the most part, that’s something that you always think about, especially being a little kid,” Lockett said. “You always watch everybody else get their name called. But like my dad said, a lot of teams call you and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to get you,’ but they don’t. The fact is when you have that one team finally call your name, it will be a great feeling because out of all thousand players that are draft eligible or even more, they chose you. They selected you. I think that speaks volumes.”

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Herbie Teope is the lead beat writer and reporter for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.

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