Bears hope to put their names on back of NFL jerseys

Lanear Sampson  | Wide Receiver
Lanear Sampson | Wide Receiver

By Daniel Hill
Sports Writer

Two former Baylor receivers are hoping to hear their names called at the NFL Draft that starts today and ends Saturday.

Terrance Williams, the unanimous All-American performer, is expected to be the earliest Baylor player selected in the NFL Draft. Another Baylor receiver, Lanear Sampson, is also expected to be selected in the NFL Draft.

Baylor receivers entering the NFL have become a habit. It started when David Gettis was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Then Robert Griffin III’s favorite target, Kendall Wright, was selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. In his rookie campaign, Wright had 626 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

Josh Gordon was taken in the second round of the 2012 supplemental draft. Gordon proved to be a true deep threat and had a breakout rookie season with 805 yards and five touchdowns.

Terrance Williams | Wide Receiver
Terrance Williams | Wide Receiver
In keeping with the trend of sending receivers to the NFL, Williams and Sampson will be the next Bears making their entrance to the NFL with this weekend’s draft.

Williams racked up 1,832 receiving yards this past season to go along with 12 touchdowns. At 6 feet 2 inches and 208 pounds, Williams has prototype NFL wide receiver size.

At the NFL combine, Williams ran a 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds, bench pressed 225 pounds for 11 reps and posted a vertical jump of 32.5 inches.

At times, Williams was considered by NFL Draft gurus and analysts as a top-tier, round-one wide receiver prospect. In the fall, mock drafts had Williams going in the late half of the first round.

The perception of Williams used to be that he was an exceptionally fast receiver with blazing speed. Williams changed that perception by running a 4.52 time in the 40-yard dash. While 4.52 is still fast, it’s not the phenomenal time many were expecting Williams to run, so that is one reason why Williams has fallen into second round consideration.

Williams was a 2012 Biletnikoff Award finalist and was a four-year starter for the Bears. He also holds eight school records.

Perhaps Williams’ most memorable moment in the Baylor green and gold came in the 2011 season when he caught RG3’s last-second pass in the end zone to give Baylor a shocking upset over Oklahoma.

Williams has shown a knack for making big plays when they matter most, and he undeniably has the ability to break the game open with a monster play. In 2012 alone, Williams had touchdown scores of 80 yards and 77 yards.

He is a fluid runner and does a fine job of being physical with his defender off of the line of scrimmage. When he hits the open field, he’s most likely heading for six.

Williams also excels at going up to catch the ball at its highest point and not allowing the defender a chance to make a play on the ball.

Another aspect of Williams’ game that is often overlooked is his ability to block in the running game. Williams is a tenacious blocker and a team player when it comes to sacrificing himself to give the team a few more yards.

Williams has the potential to be a true impact player in the NFL, but he most likely will not become a legitimate No. 1 receiver because he is not overwhelmingly exceptional at any single aspect, but rather well balanced in many skills.

At the end of the day, Williams will be a productive player in the NFL as a team’s No. 2 wide receiver because he brings such a diverse skill set to the table.

He is tall, lean, fast and talented. There’s no doubt he will be a contributing member of an NFL team in his rookie season. He’s the kind of guy that could probably have 500 or more receiving yards in his rookie campaign.

One minor weakness that all Baylor receivers must overcome is the questions concerning the Baylor offense.

Baylor does not even have a playbook and the receivers only run a limited number of routes. This means that some Baylor products can go into the league without knowing all the routes and concepts of a NFL offense. Kendall Wright struggled with route running in his time at Baylor, and he had to make the transition to a NFL offense with the Tennessee Titans. Both Williams and Sampson will have to adjust to the premiere NFL.

While Williams is considered the upper-echelon wide receiver prospect from Baylor this season, NFL teams should not overlook Lanear Sampson.

Sampson, Williams’ counterpart among the 2012 Baylor receiving corps, also had a strong senior campaign. He redshirted as a freshman and then started four seasons for the Bears.

In 2012, Sampson had 52 catches for 646 yards and six touchdowns. Sampson is 5 feet 11 inches tall and 204 pounds. Williams is a strong, compact receiver with top-notch speed. Sampson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds at the NFL Combine. At his Baylor Pro Day workout, Sampson improved upon that time with a head-turning 4.33 time.

Sampson is a quick, receiver with a physical presence. Sampson has superb hands and has exhibited fine skills with the ball in his hands while at Baylor. Sampson also gives hustle in run-blocking on the outside edge.

One of Baylor’s favorite plays from this past season was when Sampson would have the option to run either a 8-10 yard hitch route or convert to a fade route.

It was a staple of Baylor’s offense and with Sampson’s ability, it became a bread-and-butter play. Countless times, Baylor quarterback Nick Florence would go back in the pocket and look for Sampson on the option route.

In all likelihood, Sampson will be taken in the latter part of the draft, most likely on Saturday. Sampson could be taken as early as the fifth round, but also could be a sixth or seventh round pick.

There’s also a chance that Sampson could go undrafted, which can also be a blessing in disguise. When a player goes undrafted, they have the ability to pick the situation that is right for them.

No matter where he ends up, Sampson has the skill and the work ethic to stay on an NFL roster and to contribute on Sundays at wide receiver or in the slot. Sampson could also contribute on special teams as well.

Williams and Sampson are not the only Bears hoping to make the jump to the NFL. Other Baylor hopefuls trying to make it to the NFL are defensive linemen Gary Mason and Nick Johnson, offensive lineman Ivory Wade, defensive backs Chance Casey, Mike Hicks, Josh Wilson and running back Jarred Salubi.