It hasn't exactly been a great offseason for the Colts' wide receiver corps.
Even though the swap of Donnie Avery for Darrius Heyward-Bey should be considered an upgrade, LaVon Brazill's four-game suspension has decimated any signs of depth at the position. Losing Avery and Austin Collie has turned it into one of the thinnest groups on the team.
Now the Colts need to find both a No. 4 and a No. 5 receiver to complete the squad. One of those players could easily be a free agent that the team signs after final cuts are made at the end of August, but it's almost a certainty that one of the younger, unproven wide receivers will make the team as well.
That makes it an important storyline to follow during training camp. One name to keep a close eye on is Baylor undrafted free agent Lanear Sampson.
Sampson's profile is similar to most wide receivers who go undrafted. He doesn't have great height at 5'11 and some of his other physical characteristics, such as his burst out of the line of scrimmage and his flexibility, are underwhelming. But Sampson does have a few qualities going for him that make him an interesting candidate for one of those WR spots.
Like any Penn State linebacker or Wisconsin offensive lineman, perhaps one of the most interesting ways to predict Sampson's chances of becoming a pro is to look at the other Baylor wide receivers currently in the NFL.
Since 2010, four Baylor wide receivers have been drafted: David Gettis as a sixth round pick in 2010; Kendall Wright as a first round pick in 2012; Josh Gordon as a second round pick in the 2012 supplemental draft; and Terrance Williams as a third round pick in 2013.
While Gettis' career has quickly gone downhill due to injuries, him and the other two who have already played in the NFL had immediate impacts as rookies. The Cowboys lack an established third wide receiver, so Williams will likely be given every opportunity to have a productive rookie campaign as well.
That's a good trend for Sampson to follow. Not only has Baylor consistently fielded one of the most explosive passing offenses in the nation over the last three years, including even last season without RGIII, but its biggest playmakers go on to succeed in the NFL.
Sampson is also fast. A 4.35 40-yard dash fast to be exact, although that time should be taken lightly since it was recorded at his Pro Day. He ran a 4.46 at the NFL Combine.
Either way, Sampson is far from being a Blair White-like receiver. Scouting reports seem to agree that he has speed that will translate into the NFL, even if the initial quickness isn't there out of his breaks. If that ends up being true, it should help him prove that he could be an option at gunner on special teams. Like any other undrafted free agent, that is where he'll mainly have to contribute.
Those are the main reasons to think that Sampson could make the team. Unfortunately for him, there are more reasons to think he won't.
In five years with Baylor, one as a redshirt, Sampson never became more than the No. 3 option in the offense. Other players came and went, but he kept a steady, almost too consistent role. By never developing into the go-to target for the Baylor offense after four full seasons, it's fair to speculate if Sampson has already reached his peak.
And despite Sampson's impressive timed speed, he was used more as a possession receiver at Baylor, rather than a deep threat. In four years, his highest average yards per catch was only 13.6.
Sampson may have proven to be a reliable target in college with good hands, but his lack of growth coupled with mediocre physical traits could mean the NFL is just too big for him.
Still, no position on the roster is more open for new players than wide receiver. If Sampson's consistency in college carries over into training camp and preseason, he may stick around. The polarizing case for him makes his situation one of my favorites to watch over the next month.
As always, here's a few scouting reports and video highlights of Sampson.
Per the National Football Post:
STRENGTHS - Sampson has very good size and thickness for the position. He demonstrates the ability to pluck the ball away from his body, as well as maintain possession of the ball while absorbing big hits. He blocks with strong base and leverage, and when he's aggressive with his hands he is able to lock on with a strong inside fit and sustain blocks to the whistle.
WEAKNESSES - Sampson is a slow-twitch athlete that lacks burst in and out of his breaks and struggles to separate naturally. He does not use his hands well against press coverage and is too easily knocked off his line by physical defenders. He doesn't consistently run routes at full speed, which makes it easy for his man to predict his line. He does not display the deep speed needed to stretch the field vertically.
SUMMARY - Lanear Sampson has the body of an NFL WR, but lacks the quickness and acceleration to create separation naturally or get vertical. While he displays strong hands and a body needed to absorb punishment, he is not a physical receiver inside and is too easily redirected off his routes. His best trait is his blocking ability, as he flashes the ability to sustain blocks in space with base, leverage and strength. If he can learn to incorporate more physicality into how he takes on man coverage he could develop into a backup possession receiver, but Sampson will need to make his mark on special teams in order to maintain an NFL career.
Per Draft Insider:
Positive: Consistent pass catcher who displays no outstanding trait on the field. Instinctive and consistently comes back to the quarterback to make himself an available target. Uses the sidelines well, makes difficult catches in a crowd, and extends to snatch the pass away from his frame. Stays with the action and plays smart football.
Negative: Despite his listed forty time plays like a one-speed receiver with average quickness.
Analysis: Sampson was a reliable pass-catching threat the past four seasons, and he offers the skill and smarts to make a roster as a fifth receiver.