The 5th wide receiver position on the Minnesota Vikings depth chart, and ultimately a spot on the 53 man roster, is up for grabs this preseason. The Vikings signed undrafted free agent wide receivers Kain Colter and Erik Lora this offseason from a deep pass catching 2014 talent pool. Both have more than a dark horses chance to compete with Vikings’ practice squad incumbents Rodney Smith, Adam Thielen, Kamar Jordan and recently signed veteran free agent WR Josh Cooper.
How does, Colter stack up against Lora?
Both have similarities in size and speed but were uniquely different in styles and roles as football players at the collegiate level.
The 5’10 202 pound Lora is the more accomplished and decorated wide receiver of the two, setting multiple school records during his four year partnership with Eastern Illinois standout quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Representative from 31 NFL teams attended the Eastern Illinois pro day where Lora was clocked by scouts at 4.49 and 4.53 in the 40 yard dash. His 36 inch vertical would have ranked 18th at the combine if he had been invited.
“Being here with Erik, it’s that comfort blanket I’ve had for four years,” Garoppolo said. “No better receiver in the nation, in my opinion. Catching the ball, being knowledgeable of the game, and he does a great job of that, so it’s awesome to have him here.”
Lora’s career stats are insane! As a three-year starter, Lora collected 332 career receptions for 4006 yards and 35 touchdowns. Lora was a two time all-American and the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year with his record setting 136 catches in 2012.
Lora is a small but dependable receiver with outstanding focus and concentration. He has a slippery quick releases off the line as a route runner and does a good job working back to the ball. Lora is super tough and isn’t afraid to go over the middle to make the difficult catch. He is a natural hands catcher that can quickly transition to running after the catch. A very productive football player that could find playing time as a slot receiver in the NFL. Lora is more quick than fast and is more of a possession receiver than a vertical threat.
Carl’s Analysis: Lora is exactly the type of wide receiver that can “click” with Christian Ponder’s style of play. Don’t be surprised if Ponder and Lora make a few big plays against some 3rd string defenders in the 4th quarter of a couple meaningless preseason games. Yes, I think Lora has a great chance to lead the Vikings in preseason receptions while at the same time helping elevate Ponder’s trade value. Also worthy to note, Lora improved as a punt returner in his senior year returning 8 punts for 150 yards and 1 TD. Flashing some punt return skill in camp will go a long way for Erik Lora.
The 6-0 195 pound Kain Colter landed the largest signing bonus of all the undrafted free agents this offseason. That bodes well for Colter because the previous top bonus getters, Zach Line in 2013, and Chase Baker in 2012, both made the 53 man roster.
Colter is a very smart team leader that saw action for the Northwestern Wildcats as a dual-threat quarterback, running back and wide receiver. John Harris of the Sideline View thinks Colter could be another Randall Cobbs. Given his understanding of the defenses from having played quarterback and his stop-and-cut-on-a-dime quickness, he is tailor made for the slot position.
At the Senior Bowl during team drills, Colter beat the corner on a go route and laid out for a great catch in the end zone. After Wednesday’s practice, Colter decided to have surgery on his ankle which ended his week in Mobile and eliminated him from working out at the NFL combine.
Colter is 5th all time at Northwestern with 28 career rushing touchdowns. 8th at NU in rushing yards with 2180, and 2nd in passing efficiency rating with 139.0. Colter started 30 games for the Wildcats playing multiple positions and accounting for 50 total touchdowns (18 passing, 4 receiving and 28 rushing).
For a dual-threat quarterback who likes to take off and run, Colter is impressively accurate on shorter throws. Colter completed 222 of 320 attempts (69.4%) in his career, tossing 18 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.
As a runner Colter averaged 4.9 yards a carry on 449 career attempts. As a pass catcher he caught a total of 63 balls for 683 yards.
Colter showed his all-around dynamic ability against unbeaten Ohio State in October, completing 12 of 12 pass attempts while also catching a touchdown pass as the Wildcats gave the Buckeyes all they could handle for most of the game.
If you really want to see Colter at his best, you will need to go back to his junior year when Northwestern took on Indiana. While playing quarterback and wide receiver, Colter exploded in the game for 161 rushing yards and career highs for receptions (9) and receiving yards (131) while also tying a school record with 4 rushing touchdowns.
Carl’s Analysis: I’m not sure what to make of the Vikings’ love affair with these athletic option quarterbacks this year? Colter is a bit of a project much like Jerick McKinnon, but the upside is certainly well worth the risk.
McKinnon might never throw a pass in the NFL, but Colter on the other hand is an intriguing NFL wildcat option that actually could get a chance to throw a pass or two before his career is over.
Colter certainly stacks up well against Lora as an athletic offensive weapon, but as a true wideout, I’m giving the early edge to Lora.
With that said, Colter got more bonus money, plus the idea of trading or cutting Ponder is still the elephant in the room… so, Colter’s value as an emergency quarterback just might put him over the top of Lora for that final pass catching roster spot.
Colter will also get some opportunities to return kicks as the Vikings look to find a backup to spell Cordarrelle Patterson.