Even on the lowest of NFL rosters, an undrafted college free agent has a hard road to tow. Front offices and coaches have quirky tendencies and preferences with players and usually like to stick with a known commodity over an unproven guy. Still, with cheap, young talent being plentiful in the draft, the undrafted kids sometimes get a chance.
There are a number of examples on the 2014 Bengals roster, none more prevalent than linebacker Vontaze Burfict, and the team has made it a recent annual tradition to keep an undrafted free agent or two that impressed them throughout camp. Former San Diego State wide receiver, Colin Lockett will be making a push to become the next guy in that Cincinnati tradition.
Lockett did a little bit of everything as an Aztec in his four years. Interestingly enough, he came to the Southern California institution as a defensive back, but didn't have much of an effect there and was switched to offense as a sophomore. The results were immediate, as he racked up 58 catches, 970 yards and eight touchdowns at an impressive 16.7 average.
Though he never had the same stats in the subsequent two seasons, he did have a decent 2013 campaign with 52 catches, 736 yards and five touchdowns. Where he did shine quite a bit though was special teams, as he became the all-time Aztecs leader in kickoff return yardage. He hovered around 700 yards per season on returns, had a 24.1-yard career average and had three scores over three seasons as a returner.
How he makes the final 53-man roster: It's going to have to be through special teams, at least initially. Lockett will have to show a knack to return kicks in order to potentially supplant incumbent Brandon Tate.Showing the ability to work the slot as a receiver and impressing in that regard will help as well.
How we see it playing out: If he remains helathy and makes some plays in preseason, Lockett will likely be a Practice Squad candidate initially. It's not a knock on him either because the Bengals' receiving corps is pretty deep. We have seen Cincinnati receivers be called up to the active roster after being on the PS for a while, so his chance could come.
Who he reminds us of: A taller, leaner and higher-ceiling version of Quan Cosby. The little engine that could out of Texas was a fan-favorite back in 2009 and 2010 and Lockett could be a similar player. If ever given the chance, Lockett could be more of a factor on offense in the NFL than Cosby was.
Strengths: Versatility, long speed, toughness in traffic (plays bigger than his size at times), true team player.
Weaknesses: Slight build, injured at times, didn't totally dominate against weaker competition.