INDIANAPOLIS — It didn’t take long for Deon Cain to show the Indianapolis Colts just why he was one of college football’s top wide receivers the last couple years.
At 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds, Cain certainly looks the part, but it seemed as if he was able to one-up himself with each passing offseason practice, running smooth routes and catching everything thrown his way.
Cain passed his first NFL offseason program with flying colors, but now the work really begins.
When the Colts’ report to training camp on July 25, they’ll be throwing on the pads for the first time soon thereafter. And while the team believes it stole a top-end receiver in the sixth round of this year’s draft, it’s how Cain responds to the physical side of the game that will really give the team proper perspective on what it has.
“Deon’s a very talented athlete,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard told Colts.com Bob Lamey’s at the end of the team’s mandatory minicamp. “We’ve got to get to where we watch him in practice when we get the pads on and then get in games and produce. But he’s a very talented young man, and he’s an exciting player for our fans to watch going forward.”
Cain saw action in 42 games over three seasons at Clemson, compiling 130 receptions for 2,040 yards and 20 touchdowns, finishing tied for fourth in program history in receiving scores. He was a key member of the Tigers’ 2016 National Championship team, recording 38 receptions for 724 yards and nine touchdowns.
Last season, the Third Team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection had 58 receptions for 734 yards and six touchdowns.
In most cases, that kind of production at a perennial national title contender would result in a wide receiver being picked in the first two or three rounds of the NFL Draft. But some reported off-the-field concerns led to Cain falling to the sixth round, where the Colts were more-than ready to give him a chance.
“We didn’t expect Deon Cain to be there in the sixth round,” Ballard told reporters after the draft. “He didn’t have quite as big a year as he did the year before at Clemson, but he is a wideout with really good size and vertical speed that we think really ups the competition level at the receiver position.
“Our scouts did a lot of research on him,” Ballard continued. “He’s made some mistakes and I think that’s probably part of it, but we think he is a good kid. We think he’ll work and do the things – and look, I mean when a kid that talented drops, sometimes you get a … guy with a chip on his shoulder and we think he has that.”
Cain addressed some of those issues when talking to reporters during rookie minicamp. And he said he doesn’t just have a “chip on his shoulder…”
“I have a big, old chip on my shoulder right now,” Cain said. “I just have a lot to prove just for myself, everybody in the fan base and all that stuff. I’m really just going to take it day by day and right now I am just trying to get better on the little things. And getting acclimated to the playbook, everything is going to take time. So the more work I put in, it will show out on the field.”
Cain clearly made an impression on his new head coach and offensive coordinator during his initial offseason work with the Colts.
Frank Reich says he’s seen “play-making ability” out of Cain. He wants to see even more later this month.
“Like with a lot of young guys, and really probably all the young receivers, you just need to kind of fight for the consistency to do it every play,” Reich said. “But I really commend Deon. He’s really come in here and handled his business well and taken coaching well and really gotten better over the last couple of months.”
Sirianni said what has stood out about Cain is how he already seems to take to some of the finer points of playing the wide receiver position.
“I think sometimes in wide receivers we focus so much on speed, speed, speed, speed and what’s impressive about him is that he can really get out of breaks,” Sirianni said. “To me, that’s what separates really good receivers in this league. Yeah, they’ve got to be fast, but when those guys are fast and then they can separate at the top of the route and create big throws, he’s that to me. He can separate at the top.”
So far, so good for Cain, who could very well find himself pushing for plenty of passes to come his way in his rookie season.
But now the work really begins.
“I love this offense right now,” Cain said. “I see the plays that they have installed for players of my caliber. I see I can make really big plays and put a lot of good numbers up and score a lot of touchdowns.”
2018 NFL Draft - 6th Round 185th Overall - DEON CAIN