For now, the development of young talent is often a problem. The NFL allows each team to carry up to 10 players on their practice squad. These players are allowed to practice with the team but are not eligible to dress or play in games. For players who just need more playing time to naturally develop their skills, they basically get caught in limbo.
So finding a diamond in the rough is a matter of a coach deciding to carry a player on the roster who may have questions marks surrounding them, but reward their team by developing into a contributing piece of the puzzle. Sometimes even becoming a star.
Last season Matt Patricia decided to carry receiver, Brandon Powell on the roster all year even though he only appeared in the final few games of the season. His six receptions for 103 yards in the finale against Green Bay was a very solid finish to the year. But only time will tell what happens next.
So with all the limitations NFL teams have to develop talent, do the Lions have any possible diamonds in the rough heading into training camp?
There are a few players that I have often heard either the media or fans downplay this offseason, which could have a big impact sooner rather than later for the Lions.
One is defensive end Austin Bryant from Clemson who was selected in the fourth round of the draft. I’m not sure what some people have against him, but this kid is long, rangy and will fit Matt Patricia’s defense perfectly. He is also productive with a motor that doesn’t stop. Even when he had a torn pectoral muscle for the last month of the season.
Another would be receiver Travis Fulgham out of Old Dominion who the Lions selected in the sixth round. I don’t think Fulgham is the type of diamond that Kenny Golladay was and is, but I think his ceiling is still pretty high and he might just surprise some of the naysayers I’ve heard.
I think both were good picks that can not only make the Lions squad but become contributors relatively early in their careers. But I think there is another player that no one talks about who could be the Lions real diamond in the rough.