Soon after the NFL Draft we often see different approaches to a rookie season from players, typically dependent upon in which round they were selected if they were selected at all. Very few early round picks come into their inaugural NFL season feeling like they were slighted throughout the process, but that reality is all too real for some of those who feel they weren’t coveted enough for the skills they bring to the table.
This reality couldn’t be any more real for Indianapolis Colts’ sixth-round pick Deon Cain. Cain, who was a playmaker at wide receiver from Clemson, feels that he was picked far later than he should have. But, his motivation isn’t blinding him from what he is here to do.
Cain has admitted that his suspension following his freshman season and lack of production his junior year — in comparison to his first two seasons of college — had something to do with that. He also suggests that his head is screwed on straight and is focused on what he needs to do to become the prospect he was initially billed to be.
Saturday when Cain was asked about how he was approaching his next step into the league, he his reply cut straight to the heart of the matter.
“I have a big, old chip on my shoulder right now. I just have a lot to prove just for myself, everybody in the fan base and all that stuff. I’m really just going to take it day by day and right now I am just trying to get better on the little things. And getting acclimated to the playbook, everything is going to take time. So the more work I put in, it will show out on the field.”
While his work ethic doesn’t seem to have ever been in question, his past has a lot to do with him having a career with any semblance of sustained success.
Cain continued: “Mostly just because I know what I am capable of and I just felt like a lot of people tried to put a little downfall on me at the end of the day. So I am just going to try to work better and get myself better at the end of the day.”
His reference is channeled towards the end of the pre-draft process where many were questioning his drops, and the drop in numbers of his final season at Clemson. Cain’s first two years were full of promise on the field, shooting his receiving yards up from 582 yards in 2015, to 724 yards in 2016 with only 4 more catches in ‘16.
He looked as if he would continue his rise to possibly break the 20-yards-per-catch barrier he was so close to in 2017, but instead, that number went in the other direction. But, it wasn’t just that he descended to a mark of 12.7 yards per catch (58 receptions), his touchdowns followed suit as well dropping from 9 in 2016, to just 6 last year.
This was a concern for most draft analysts, but the qualifier that was the quarterback situation wasn’t just senseless chatter, that was very real as well. The mitigating factor of losing Deshaun Watson (4,109 yards, 67.8% completion rate) to the NFL following the 2016 season, to having a passer fail to hit the 3,000-yard mark last season was felt in more ways than one.
Cain is looking to put all of that behind him now, though as he prepares for life in the NFL, and sees an offense in Indianapolis in which he can strive in if he gets to where he needs to be. “I love this offense right now. I see the plays that they have installed for players of my caliber. I see I can make really big plays and put a lot of good numbers up and score a lot of touchdowns.”
Cain is perhaps in the perfect situation for him and the Colts. Andrew Luck will be looking to return to form with a suspect WR corps this season in which Cain can carve out a real role. He doesn’t have the latitude to allow himself to be outworked with a young, tall and fast group of unproven receivers hoping to make their own mark in the Colts offense. But, with his size (6-foot-2, 202 pounds) and speed (4.43 40-yard dash) the only thing stopping Cain from reaching his potential will be himself.