When watching tape on Eastern Illinois’ quarterback Jimmy Garroppolo, I noticed a specific wide-receiver that seemed to always make plays around the ball. That receiver was Erik Lora: one of the main reasons for Garroppolo’s stardom.
As an elite route runner with soft hands, Lora is the perfect slot receiver specimen. While his size and speed are not ideal, he makes up for it by outsmarting his opponent and having a tenacious determination to make plays. He is also a very impressive blocker for his size, reminiscent of team legend Steve Smith.
Lora was outstanding in college, setting an FCS record with 136 catches for 1,664 yards as junior at Eastern Illinois. He followed up that All-America season with 123 catches for 1,544 yards and 19 touchdowns last year:
The fact that Lora played mostly against weaker competition and had a quarterback of Garroppolo’s caliber have many saying that the star wide receiver is overrated. I see it differently, however, and a case could be made that without Lora, Garoppolo would go undrafted this year. Without Lora getting open and catching everything thrown at him, his quarterback's career would have been less impressive.
Lora even shined along with his teammate at the East-West Shrine Game. He made big plays against solid competition on a nationally televised event, only solidifying my opinion on Lora being NFL ready.
Lora’s route running and playmaking will undoubtedly make him a major threat on 3rd down in the NFL. In every draft, there are slot receivers that people call the next Wes Welker but unfortunately, many of these players never meet their potential at the next level. Lora, however, is a far more talented receiver then most fitting this same mold entering this year’s draft. While he will likely never be Welker, Lora will make a great impact for an NFL team at some point in his career.
Expect Lora to be picked late in the draft in possibly the fifth or sixth round. Lora is one of my favorite players in the draft, not just for his play but also for his personality. In interviews, he is smart and passionate about the game, which should certainly be impressive for NFL teams. I hope to see Lora in a Panthers’ uniform next year, but I’ll be rooting for him no matter where lands.