Landing one of the top wide receiver prospects in the state of Iowa, Allen Lazard, was arguably one of the biggest gets for the Iowa State Cyclones in recent recruiting history. Lazard, then a scrawny 6’5”/208 lb kid from Urbandale, IA had offers from much bigger, more important schools around the nation. Rather than choosing to leave home for the likes of Nebraska or Stanford, or to stay at home and play for the more highly-touted Iowa Hawkeyes, Lazard chose to play for his hometown Cyclones.
The team and fans alike have been thrilled with that decision ever since. From the outset, Lazard showed he has star potential, snagging 45 receptions for just short of 600 yards. From there, Lazard has gone nowhere but up, skyrocketing up the Cyclones all-time receiving record books. With just seven receptions and a little over 600 yards, Lazard will be the school’s all-time leader in both categories. It would take a Herculean effort (15) for Lazard to tie the record for touchdowns, but it’s not out of the question.
Lazard has truly been a gamer for the Cyclones, and he’s returning to Ames for one last season to put a cap on what has been a sterling career. With another outstanding year for the Cyclones, Lazard could find himself in the discussion as a potential first round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
When you watch Allen Lazard, hands are probably the most frustrating aspect of his game. He has great body control, especially for someone of his size, and very good leaping ability. He puts himself in great position to make a catch more often than not. He makes the hard catches look routine.
But he also has a tendency to make the routine catches look hard. Lazard will sometimes struggle with his concentration, dropping passes when there’s nobody around him. He’ll seamlessly go from making a twisting catch falling away from the ball to dropping an easy catch on a crossing route. This, more than anything, is going to need to be cleaned up before Lazard garners any serious consideration as a Day 1 selection.
Hands Grade: 19/25
Lazard has a lot of work to do from a route-running perspective, as well, if he has first-round aspirations in next year’s draft. The bulk of his yardage comes on underneath routes, and out routes. The Big 12 conference isn’t one known for suffocating defenses, and Lazard frequently benefits from corners giving him a significant cushion, despite not being much of a threat from a speed perspective.
Where Lazard excels in this facet of the game is two-fold. First, he’s very adept at using his body. Both as a physical receiver over the middle, and on deep routes shielding the defender from the ball, allowing him to use his leaping ability to its full strength. Secondly, Lazard is one of the better receivers in this class at coming back to the ball. Whether that says more about Lazard or about the lack of consistent quarterback play he’s had during his career is up for interpretation. Regardless, Lazard is near the head of the class when it comes to helping out his quarterback.
Route Running Grade: 18/25
Agility & Quickness
There really isn’t much to speak of when it comes to agility and quickness for Lazard. Despite lining up a surprising amount on the inside, he’s not a twitchy athlete. He’s not going to shake anyone out of their jock, and he gets most of his yardage by way of porous defense in the conference. Lazard has struggled with injuries the past two seasons in Ames, which has certainly hurt his agility, but even when healthy he’s not going to make anyone’s eyes pop with this trait.
Unfortunately for Lazard, unlike his issues with concentration drops or his route running, this isn’t really something he can work on a whole lot. You’re either quick and agile or you’re not. And Lazard is not.
Agility & Quickness Grade: 7/15
Speed & Acceleration
Much like with agility and quickness, speed and acceleration are either something you’re blessed with or you’re not. And as with the previous trait, speed just isn’t part of Lazard’s game. He’s a slow-moving, possession receiver who is likely to run in the 4.6 range at the NFL combine. Fast for you or me, but slow on the spectrum of NFL wide receivers.
To Lazard’s credit; however, he does have a pretty amazing ability to find himself behind the defender. It’s not really apparent how he does it with his lack of agility and speed, but somehow he’s able to bait corners and lull them to sleep, allowing for Lazard to gain a step on them. When Lazard is at his best, that’s all he needs. If Lazard can stay healthy in his senior season, he could surprise me and run closer to a mid-4.5, which would improve his draft stock.
Speed & Acceleration Grade: 7/15
If there’s one facet of the game that I would like to see more of from Lazard, it’s blocking. In the games that I’ve watched, blocking doesn’t seem to be something that Lazard is asked to do on any sort of regular basis. It’s also not something that Lazard seems to be particularly good at. It’s not an area he struggles with, necessarily, but for someone of his size, it’s not a strength either.
At 6’5” and nearly 230 pounds, Lazard is definitely going to be asked to develop blocking skills at the next level. This is going to be the number one thing that I keep my eye on this season to see progress on. If he can show that he’s worked on the blocking skills, I’ll be much more comfortable with his draft stock overall.
Blocking Grade: 6/10
Every position has certain size metrics that NFL scouts want to see a player hit if they’re going to select them, especially early on. But just as a player can be too short or too light to play a position, so too can a player be too tall or too heavy. Lazard, on paper, seems to have great size at 6’5” and 223 lbs. However, when you begin to look at it, his size may almost be a detriment to success at the next level.
Few players that are that tall and weigh near 230 are successful. Those who are, such as the Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones’ of the world, possess almost other-worldly athleticism. That’s not something that can be said of Lazard. Working in Lazard’s favor, however, is that the same was said of Mike Evans coming out of Texas A&M, and he’s managed to blossom into one of the rising stars of the league.
Size Grade: 6/10
The potential is there with regards to Allen Lazard. At times, he shows a player who is more than capable of holding his own in what could wind up being a very strong 2018 NFL draft class at the wide receiver position. But he does have a lot that he’s going to need to work on if he wants to be considered among the best.
Fortunately for Lazard, his biggest problem areas are ones that he can work on. His route running and concentration need to improve considerably in his final season with the Cyclones. But with the trajectory Lazard has been on thus far in his career, I fully expect to see significant improvement in both areas by the time we get to the end of the 2017 college football season. Right now I view Lazard as a likely late second or early third round pick. With progress, he could sneak into the latter portions of the first round.
Overall Grade: 63/100 (Middle Second-to-Early Third)