Ellis Lankster is a cornerback and junior college transfer that played the last two seasons for the West Virginia Mountaineers. According to a league source, he has a visit scheduled with the Colts in the coming weeks.
Lankster at the Senior Bowl
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
He appeared in 22 games those two seasons, with 84 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions, and eight passes defended.
On special teams, he returned 20 punts for 171 yards and eight kickoffs for 195 yards, which does not make him a grizzled veteran in the return game, but does make him about as experienced at the craft as everyone on the Colts roster not named T.J. Rushing.
Due to his size — barely 5-feet-9 and 191 pounds — lack of experience at the Division I BCS level with only two seasons to his credit, and lackluster workout numbers (4.53 in the 40), he is a long shot to get drafted this year. He's currently ranked 34th at his position and 304th overall, according to the latest Scout.com draft rankings.
But, taking those points one by one:
- He's not actually that small for a Colts cornerback. They have taken players that are smaller and those players have been productive in the system. The important thing is that he's capable, and willing, in run support.
- While he does lack experience, he certainly squeezed a lot of production into the two seasons he played in Morgantown. He averaged four tackles per game and returned 28 kicks, which is far more than he likely would be called upon to do in 2009 for Indianapolis. Although the Big East has taken a hit to its reputation in recent years, West Virginia is still a quality program with talented players, so it's noteworthy that he was able to step in and contribute that much that quickly.
- The Colts care more about game speed than they do about stopwatch speed. Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden do not possess blazing speed and have both been successful working within the structure of the Cover 2 defense. Brandon Foster and Keiwan Ratliff have been good fits with the defense as well, even without possessing the measurables that teams are looking for in top-flight cornerback prospects.
The bottom line is that Lankster could end up being a valuable contributor to the Colts, both as a reserve and as a member of special teams. The larger issue is that he is not only facing the 303 men that are ranked ahead of him in this year's draft, he's also up against the slew of prospects Indianapolis has spoken with that return kicks or have coverage unit experience in addition to being able to play their natural position.
As the saying goes, the more you can do to help the team, the better your odds of making the roster. It's very possible that Indianapolis could select a kick returner in the draft and still sign Lankster (or another player with return experience) as an undrafted free agent.
However, he would be signed more as insurance and might actually be better served career-wise by passing on the Colts offer and going with another team instead.
Indianapolis has a long history of success with undrafted players defying the odds to make the roster and contribute, and they did see enough to attend his private workout. Maybe they saw enough to believe he can beat the odds.
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