In 2013, the Detroit Lions struck gold on the undrafted free agent market, nabbing tackle LaAdrian Waddle and tight end Joseph Fauria. Both were unknowns who won the right to become contributors during the season at key spots on offense.
This year, the Lions have once again set out to test a new group of rookie free agents on their important job interview, and have a nice mix of talent and potential to choose from. Who from this year’s class stands out? Here’s five names that could be seen as the next Waddle or Fauria a year from now.
1. Cornelius Lucas, T, Kansas State. At 6’9″ and 328, Lucas has a massive NFL frame which would be ideal for protecting a quarterback from opposing edge rushers. Most feel as if he must get better with footwork and agility off the snap, but those traits are teachable. From a body standpoint considering his impressive hand size and wingspan, Lucas might have the athleticism and intangibles to win a spot along the line, perhaps eventually pushing tackle Riley Reiff back inside. Detroit could be banking on that, given the $20,000 signing bonus they offered Lucas to hang around. Considering Lucas suffered a stress fracture prior to the combine, it may have kept him off everyone else’s radar to Detroit’s benefit.
2. James Franklin, QB, Missouri. Detroit didn’t draft one of the bigger-name quarterbacks in the middle or late rounds, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t find a possible hidden gem with Franklin, who was SEC tested. In college, he was a runner first, scoring 15 touchdowns on the ground in 2013. Franklin isn’t a strong armed passer, but has a solid body and is nimble, using speed to keep plays alive. If he comes to camp and shows an extra gear outside the pocket in the preseason that Kellen Moore doesn’t have, the Lions could always decide to keep him around in a developmental role and let Moore walk.
3. Gabe Lynn, S, Oklahoma. Famously, the Lions didn’t draft any of the top safeties available either, so they added the first of two free agents in Lynn, a former Sooner standout that collected four interceptions last season along with 57 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Compared with fellow safety addition Jerome Couplin from William and Mary, Lynn has the bigger game experience, which could be an asset in a camp battle. Couplin has the size (6’2″, 215) and has been an active playmaker, though, with 257 career tackles. It should be a fascinating competition.
4. Mohammed Seisay, CB, Nebraska. While not as imposing as his former college teammate Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Seisay quietly has size of his own to rely on at the cornerback spot (6’2″, 200) and that alone could help him land a bit-part role with the Lions, who did add Nevin Lawson, but may need another body to push one of Bill Bentley, Jonte Green or Chris Greenwood. Seisay has the size and Cornhusker toughness ingrained in him, and given the success of Alfonzo Dennard, Eric Warfield and Zack Bowman in the league, it’s always hard to bet against Nebraska corners finding a way.
5. D.J. Morrell, G, Old Dominion. Much like Waddle came out of nowhere along the line in 2013, so too could Morrell in 2014, who has ideal size at 6’6″ 325 and is a load on the interior. Of great interest to Detroit fans? Morrell’s match up with tough St. Louis Rams’ draftee Aaron Donald from last season, in which the guard only allowed Donald to collect two tackles. If that’s the type of body he can limit whilst in college, the prospects of him opening the staff’s eyes might be good. Rob Sims is aging, and moving Reiff inside isn’t the only way Detroit could solve their future need at guard opposite Larry Warford.