Almost every season in the NFL, players that slip through the NFL draft and fall to the ranks of the Undrafted Free Agents find their ways to the various corners of rosters around the league. Some of these were draftable stars that fell due to poor measurements, poor interviews, legal trouble, or other dreaded ‘Red Flags’. Still, enough of those find their ways to squads where they are a good fit and the roster is built in such a way to allow opportunity. LaAdrian Waddle is a good example of that, coming as an “obviously developmental” prospect to a team that had wafer thin OT depth and precisely zero incumbent starters at either spot.
LaAdrian Waddle was able to make the Detroit Lions final roster even after a shaky camp. His footwork was terrible and he ran third behind established veterans Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox. It wasn’t until injuries took their toll that Waddle was finally given his shot, and by that point he had almost completely turned it around as a player. His footwork wasn’t great, but coming from a college team that barely focused on footwork nobody had expected he would be perfect. He was able to put enough together in the short half-season he was given to become not only an adequate fill in, but a potential long-term starter.
Some of that falls on the Lions exceptional Offensive Line coaching staff, led by Jeremiah Washburn, but there can never be enough praise for the work ethic and drive that Waddle exhibited during his meteoric rise from camp near flop to NFL starter. It is those traits that will be most important for the UDFAs on the 2014 roster, and there couldn’t be a better head coach to value those sort of players. The Lions were very fortunate in 2013 with not only one, but two Undrafted Free Agents making the roster and contributing as rookies, but there are some who have a decent shot at repeating that feat this season.