Former Iowa State star Allen Lazard says he’d be willing to move to tight end in NFL
INDIANAPOLIS — Allen Lazard understands how he’s being viewed by some in the NFL community — as an athlete caught between two positions.
If the Urbandale native and former four-year star at Iowa State can turn in a fast 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine on Saturday, he’ll earn the chance to stay at wide receiver.
If not, Lazard’s future may be at tight end, a notion he has typically resisted.
HELPING OTHERS: Lazard leaping for a good cause at NFL Scouting Combine
On Friday, Lazard told reporters at the Indiana Convention Center that he’d gladly switch positions if that was his best path to getting on the field.
“A number of teams have asked if I’d be able to do it. I told every single one the same answer: ‘Hell yeah,’” Lazard said. “It doesn’t matter what I’m playing. I’m just so grateful and blessed to be here in this stage of my life. It doesn’t matter who wants me as long as they want me. I’m going to go out there and compete and do whatever it takes to help teams win.”
Lazard caught 241 passes for 3,360 yards and 26 touchdowns, despite playing with six different quarterbacks, in a record-breaking career at Iowa State. He excelled at winning one-on-one matchups with defensive backs unable to gain leverage against his big frame.
Lazard is 6-foot-4 5/8 and weighed in at 227 pounds Friday. The question may be: Does he lose 10 pounds to gain some speed and agility, carrying on as a wide receiver? Or does he add some weight and muscle and tangle with linebackers in the middle of the field?
“I’m a versatile athlete. I’ve played multiple sports my entire life. In high school, I played a whole bunch of different positions,” Lazard said of his prospects at tight end. “I was recruited to Iowa State to play safety. I made that transition in high school more toward receiver. Me being a physical guy, that safety mentality has carried over to playing offense. I play very physically and very aggressively and that’s something you need to do as a tight end, being so close to the ball. Those guys are so big and strong, you can’t have a soft bone in your body to be able to play in those trenches.”
Still, Lazard said he hasn’t played with his hand in the dirt since the third grade. His preference is to remain at wide receiver. He’ll just need to convince NFL teams that he can create enough separation from cornerbacks to succeed outside.
Former Cyclone wide receiver Allen Lazard knows people doubt his speed
No team wants to rely on a receiver who constantly must win one-on-one battles in order to be productive. It puts too much pressure on a quarterback to always put the ball in a perfect spot.
If Lazard can run a sub-4.6-second 40-yard dash, that would allay any doubts.
If he’s above 4.7 seconds, look out.
Lazard was coy about what time he is shooting for.
“Somewhere between fast and really fast is my goal,” he said early in Friday’s interview.
Later, he added: “I would love to run a 4.3 or 4.2, but at the end of the day, Anquan Boldin is going to go into the hall of fame and he ran a 4.7. He’s a bigger receiver, about 6-1 or 6-2. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how fast you run or how high you jump, it’s about what you can do on the field on Sunday.”
And that’s where Lazard sees himself shining. He may be lacking breakaway speed, but certainly not confidence.
He said he wants to prove “that I’m the best receiver in this draft class, plain and simple. … I might not have all the statistics or the test numbers to be the No. 1 overall receiver or whatever, but when it comes to competition and playing on Sundays, I feel I’m ready.”
The last three draft classes have been light on impact wide receivers. Rookies are finding it tough to adjust to life in the NFL, where they see more press coverage than they’ve been used to.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said this week that it’s difficult to evaluate college wide receivers because of the soft pass coverage they often face.
“It’s hard to watch wide receivers get challenged legitimately at the line of scrimmage in college. NFL defenses are much more complex,” Mayock said before singling out the Big 12 Conference that Lazard competed in.
“I get frustrated when I just see guys running wide open all over the place” against Big 12 secondaries.
But Mayock also said there’s a school of thought that the NFL may start valuing large receivers such as Lazard more. The thinking is that speed is no longer the sole way to achieve separation, that perhaps an athlete who combines size with good route-running can outmaneuver defensive backs and make a living off of back-shoulder throws along the sidelines or in the end zone.
Lazard admitted Friday that he needs to break out of his routes more cleanly. But he prides himself on being a reliable target in the red zone.
That is why he’s such an intriguing prospect here. His 40-yard dash time and individual drill work could define not only his future but also offer a peek into where the league is heading.
An oversized wide receiver? A smaller, but quicker, tight end?
Lazard will live with either label.
“I’m always capable of springing a big play and turning the momentum of the game and helping my team win,” he said. “I can help my team offensively in the run game and the pass game, whether it’s intermediate or deep routes. I can dig out a linebacker or safety if I have to.”
Now he needs to dig out a career path. That begins Saturday.