There are a few players that the Lions signed as undrafted free agents who have a chance to become a diamond in the rough. Like guard Beau Benzschawel out of Wisconsin. Considering the Lions didn’t draft a guard, they got a pretty good one in Benzschawel who many thought was going to be drafted.
Another is receiver Tom Kennedy. The free agent out of tiny Bryant College has very good quickness and catches everything thrown to him. I see practice squad in his near future, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the jump active roster, whether in Detroit or elsewhere before long.
Those are all good possibilities, but I think my biggest diamond in the rough, literally, would be the Lions final pick in the draft; defensive tackle P.J. Johnson from Arizona.
After stints at Sacramento State and the City College of San Francisco, he joined the Arizona Wildcats. Last season he played in 10 games garnering 31 tackles and three sacks. He is very athletic for his size (6’4″ and 334 lbs) and can not only make plays in the backfield but push the pocket as well.
He is also incredibly raw.
P.J. Johnson has enough ability to be a productive starter in the NFL. That isn’t the question. The question is; can he learn to harness that raw ability? Johnson didn’t return for his senior season because he felt the pressure to make it in the NFL to support his two young children.
Parenting is the type of responsibility, if taken seriously, that will help mature a young man fast. Which also means bringing more focus to the practice field. If Johnson shows the maturity and focus needed, he could surprise everyone. Especially if Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison decides to not report to training camp.
P.J. Johnson has all the skills and ability needed to become a successful pro. If he can stay focussed and work hard, he has a chance to be a productive player for years to come. And also a diamond in the rough.