Thousands of fans have already attended Detroit Lions training camp, getting their first look of the 2013 season at the team’s superstars like Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh. While the big names will always draw a lot of attention, there has also been a lot of buzz about undrafted free agent tight end Joseph Fauria.
That’s not surprising considering he is a pass-catching tight end trying to stick with a pass-happy offensive team. Oh, and a 6’7″ frame is hard to hide.
Fauria certainly has a chance to make the final 53-man roster but is he the most likely undrafted free agent in Lions camp to do so? I say no, choosing instead to give that distinction to offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle.
The opportunity to make the roster was a big reason Waddle decided to sign with the Lions after he went undrafted last April:
“I got a brief look at how things work around here, Waddle said. “I got to see the facilities, be around the town and be around some of the guys. That, coupled with seeing they need extra depth at tackle, just knowing that if I came and performed up to my standards, I could have a chance to make the team.”
So far, so good for Waddle. With Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard battling to become the team’s starting right tackle, Waddle has been able to pick up second team reps at left tackle. At some point those reps are likely to go to the “loser” between Fox and Hilliard, but for the time being Waddle is getting a chance to prove himself and has done a solid job.
That gives Waddle the inside track to one of the four roster spots likely to be given to offensive tackles. Fauria’s path to a roster spot is less clear. Fauria’s best shot is that he is so impressive that he forces the team to depart from the way they have constructed their roster in the past and carry an additional tight end.
Fauria won’t win a roster spot over Brandon Pettigrew or Michael Williams – he is still developing as a blocker and not able to fill the roles set for Pettigrew and Williams this season. Being more in the mold of Tony Scheffler, could Fauria lead to the release of Scheffler? That thinking has gathered some steam with fans but let’s put on the brakes for just a minute. Is it reasonable to expect Fauria to give the Lions what they can expect from Scheffler this season? Seems someone would have used a draft pick on Fauria if that was a realistic expectation.
For Waddle, it’s about maintaining the status quo. For Fauria, it’s about defying expectations or at least forcing a decision to keep a fourth tight end at the expense of a roster spot elsewhere. If I had to make a bet right now, I’d put my money on LaAdrian Waddle as the Lions undrafted free agent most likely to be on the roster when the Vikings come to town in week one.