Are the Detroit Lions Finally Drafting Better? Two Late Round Draft Picks Make the Case


With several weeks of training camp and a preseason exhibition game behind the Detroit Lions, speculation and chatter about players at all levels of the depth chart has been running rampant. While it’s not a stretch to pontificate about what type of season marquee players may have, Sidelion Report is going to take a look at two late round draft picks who may be primed to have their breakout seasons with the Lions.

Nov 19, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) is tackled by Detroit Lions cornerback Jonte Green (36) in the second quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Jonte Green

Last off-season, I noted Jonte Green as a candidate to be a breakout player. However, I admittedly may have jumped the gun after he showed flashes of promise his rookie season in five starts.  Green ended up starting only two games in December after Chris Houston and Slay went down with injuries.

Will his third season be the one he puts it all together?  Based on what I saw from him in college, I certainly think he has the tools to develop into a solid number two outside corner.  Here’s an excerpt from his scouting report:

STRENGTHS: Adequate height with good bulk and functional strength. Possesses the quickness, agility and balance to mirror receivers in and out of breaks. Excellent play speed and can stay with any receiver down-field. Accelerates to top speed quickly when breaking vs. underneath passes. Flies up the field aggressively in run support. Solid, wrap-up tackler who consistently brings his man down. Gives top effort from snap to whistle.

WEAKNESSES: Press technique is raw. Needs to do a better job of jamming at the line to re-route receivers. Lacks ideal instincts and route recognition skills; struggles anticipating breaks and will allow separation. Is a beat late breaking on the ball from Off/Zone. Ball skills need improvement – does not time his jump well or aggressively attack the ball in the air.

SUMMARY: Though he’s not ready to be a day one starter, Jonte’s physical tools and competitive nature give him a high ceiling. Certainly he possesses the speed, quick feet and lateral agility to effectively mirror NFL receivers in tight M/M. However, his Press Man technique is raw and needs refinement. Another area Jonte needs to improve is his route recognition skills as he struggles anticipating breaks, allowing separation. And while his ability to track the ball vertically improved his senior year, he still needs to work on his ability to look, lean and highpoint the ball. Where Jonte excels is vs. the run, where he consistently attacks ball carriers aggressively and brings his man down on contact. Though he’ll clearly need time to develop, Jonte possesses the necessary physical tools and competitiveness to be a solid number two corner if he can improve the mental side of his game. Fifth round developmental prospect.

Defensive Coordinator Austin’s intent to switch to a more press man heavy scheme will suit Green well, as he struggles in Off/Zone. If he can continue to improve his ball skills he will make the roster as a back-up outside corner.

Corey Fuller

Aug 9, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Corey Fuller (10) celebrates his touchdown with teammates during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Ford Field. Detroit won 13-12. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Having been last year’s sixth round draft pick, Corey Fuller is a player who has needed to prove himself during training camp and the preseason to secure his spot on this season’s 53 man roster.  Sidelion Report’s own Max DeMara reported from training camp that Fuller has done the off-field work to get his body in top shape, and there is no question that his game winning 21-yard touchdown reception was the highlight of Saturday’s relatively snooze-worthy preseason game. However, will this be enough?

Prior to the 2013 draft, 6-3, 233 lb. Marcus Davis was the receiver on the Hokies’ squad that garnered all the attention.  However, Fuller caught my eye several times during the season, particularly in his seven reception, 124 yard performance against the then #10 ranked Florida State Seminoles.  A former track athlete, his excellent speed was explicable.  What really caught my attention was the surprising fluidity with which he moved into and out of his breaks for a big receiver.  I noted that he needed to add strength and work on his raw technique, and it appears he has put in the time and effort to improve both facets.

Consider this: in a formula created by ESPN The Magazine to measure receiver’s raw physical potential (height x weight / 40 time^2), Fuller ranks among last year’s top five receivers in the NFL.  Certainly the measurables are there to warrant intriguing upside.

Fuller’s size and sub 4.4 speed make him best suited as a Z or Flanker off the line of scrimmage where he doesn’t have to beat press and can stretch the field vertically.  If Fuller can emerge as a viable fourth or fifth receiver, Lombardi will have another big-bodied receiver who can create separation and provide multiple spread offense options.