As former Tulsa wide receiver standout Keyarris Garrett did not make the Carolina Panthers final roster, I considered the other possible teams he may end up with.
His chances of making the roster would have been much higher had he been able to sign with Carolina last season. They had a rough year at the position and it was a group who badly needed depth. Unfortunately for Garrett, he was still pacing the NCAA in receiving yards at Tulsa and Carolina filled the need this year and with star receiver Kelvin Benjamin returning from injury, they already had the “large target” role filled.
I refuse to believe that his NFL career is finished after going undrafted and signing with one team, however. Here are some other potential landing spots for the former TU star from Texas:
Baltimore Ravens – They throw the deep ball, and very few, if any, do it as well as Joe Flacco. Whether or not he is “elite”, he has a cannon of an arm, and receivers Torrey Smith, Kamar Aiken, and Jacoby Jones have benefited greatly from him in the past. Other than Steve Smith, Sr., and Kamar Aiken, their receiver position is very open to competition. Smith is yet another year older, though he can still play. He will likely run many of the more complex routes and draw the opponent’s number 1 corner on many plays. On the other side, Aiken will run a variety of routes, with several deep attempts guaranteed over the course of the game. However, with Torrey Smith’s departure, the Ravens need a consistent deep threat. Garrett may fit the role as someone who can constantly pressure the safeties and allow Smith room to work underneath. Also, his tenacity to work back from his severe injury suffered at Tulsa fits well with the Ravens’ mindset and culture of toughness. Baltimore is my favorite fit for him.
Los Angeles Rams – Tavon Austin is it. They have no one else that is a respectable threat as a wideout, and even Austin is inconsistent at best. His playmaking ability finds him all over the field, which, like stated above, is helped by Garrett’s ability to open up space underneath. This would be perfect for Austin, as the only thing the Rams really need to do in the air attack is get the ball in his hands. Just look at what he did to Oklahoma in 2012 when he was still a Mountaineer. He had 572 all-purpose yards, which is hard to achieve in a video game, let alone real life. This was against a defense that had several future NFL players. If the Los Angeles Rams (that still feels weird to type) think that Garrett may make getting Austin the ball easier for their rookie quarterback Jared Goff, it is definitely worth the effort to sign him. Tight ends are usually a young quarterbacks best friends, and though Jared Cook got 16% of the targets last year which was good for second on the team, he left for Green Bay. Perhaps Garrett can find a niche in the Rams’ offense this season.
New England Patriots – There isn’t much room on the roster, but the Patriots are known for taking unappreciated or misused talent and developing it. Julian Edelman, the team’s leading receiver, played quarterback in college. LeGarrette Blount has a history of personal issues and was cut by the Steelers before being signed by New England and made the starting running back. Malcolm Butler, the hero of Super Bowl XLIX, went undrafted before the Patriots picked him up. (Also, I’m a Patriots fan, so this column lets me relive this moment, which makes me smile, without fail, every time. In fact, here’s another) Randy Moss, before setting the NFL record for most touchdown receptions in a season, was acquired from Oakland with a 4th round draft pick. Perhaps most famously, Tom Brady was selected 199th overall in his draft. There may be very little room on the roster, and Belichick prefers durability and the ability to play fill multiple roles (not only receiving, but also being able to play on special teams), but it would not surprise me if they gave Garrett a tryout.
Seattle Seahawks – This is another longshot, but Pete Carroll has created a powerhouse in Washington by taking players that have been discounted by other teams. His players often find their way to Seattle because of draft day slides due to talented players having off-field issues, but Garrett may fit into the mold of players having a chip on their shoulder that Seattle seems to like building around. Their receiving corps is not particularly potent, so don’t count this spot out, although they are likely to add Tanner McEvoy to the final 53-man roster. McEvoy is a sizable receiver who even got some looks at tight end this preseason, which means the Seahawks may not be in the market for large targets such as Garrett. Regardless, it would not surprise me if Garrett signed with Seattle in the coming weeks.
Though he led the country last year in receiving yards with 1588, he did not get drafted in any of the 7 rounds. Although he has great physical attributes (6’4, 207), he was frequently knocked for his inability to separate from defensive backs. His route running in college was primarily deep routes, with short underneath routes being a second option. These patterns are not particularly hard to grasp, and although he made the most of his go routes, he often needed to make a play on the ball in the air. He rarely had much distance between himself and the coverage, which led to a multitude of catches coming from him simply outjumping the cornerback. This worked well for him and Tulsa’s offense in college, but facing a professional cornerback every week makes the task much more difficult.
He struggled during the early days of his time at Carolina, but he improved as the weeks went by. He had an amazing catch during his last preseason game, which was nullified by a seemingly bogus offensive pass interference call. Unfortunately, those types of calls may be pervasive in Garrett’s young career, unless he can develop the ability to separate himself from his defender simply by effective cuts and handwork in his route running.
All of us at Reign Cane Sports, as well as the entire TU community, are wishing Garrett well in his professional career. I spent much of last year rooting for Tyler Lockett in Seattle since he was a product of the local Booker T. Washington High School, as well as Chris Harris in Denver from Bixby. Tulsa people are generally fiercely loyal to locals, as evidenced by our irrational love for Tulsa-based QuikTrip. Though many outside of the TU community may not know much about Garrett, seeing his offensive intro on Sundays saying “Keyarris Garret, Tulsa” as he looks into the camera is something I am hoping will one day be a reality.