Lions highly-touted undrafted rookie could make debut after bye

Hunter Bryant, Washington Huskies - Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Hunter Bryant, Washington Huskies - Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Lions could see the debut of their undrafted prize following their bye week

Following every NFL draft, there is a mad scramble to sign to best of the undrafted rookie free agents (UDFA). This year, the Detroit Lions landed a highly-coveted UDFA in Washington hybrid tight end and H-back, Hunter Bryant.

Bryant posted 52 receptions for 825 yards and three scores while averaging 15.9 yards per catch during his junior season with the Huskies last year. And despite entering the draft considered one of the best players at his position, his injury history, lack of blocking ability, and height all combined to see him go undrafted in April.

The 6-foot-2, 239-pound Bryant suffered a knee injury as a freshman at Washington that limited him to just nine games. He’d play just five games his sophomore season due to a torn ACL.

Despite those concerns, Bryant was one of the most highly-sought after undrafted free agents immediately following the 2020 NFL Draft. And despite the presence of 2019 first-round tight end T.J. Hockenson, and veteran Jesse James, Bryant chose to come to the Motor City.

The question is why? It’s likely the Lions view the unusual Bryant as more of an offensive weapon than a traditional tight end.

Using Bryant more in a flex tight end role, Detroit could try to take advantage of the fact the rookie was the most dynamic deep threat of all the power-five tight ends last year. According to Pro Football Focus, he had a whopping seven receptions of 20 yards or more in 2019.

Currently sidelined due to a hamstring injury he suffered during training camp, here’s what Tim Twentyman wrote for recently about Bryant’s potential upcoming debut.

"“[Bryant] appears to be getting close to returning … He was back at practice all week ahead of the Saints game and an extra week of rest from the bye week could put him in a position to make his NFL debut Week 6 vs. Jacksonville.”"

As a rookie fresh off an injury and following an offseason training program that was stunted due to a worldwide pandemic, Bryant’s role with the Lions will undoubtedly be very limited early on. Especially considering the playmakers the team already possesses at both the tight end and wide receiver positions.

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But the 22-year old Hunter Bryant could find a niche role as a unique mismatch for opposing defenses and as a surprising deep threat that could spark a big play or two for the Detroit Lions. And based on the way the Lions have played through the first four weeks of the season, one or two game-changing plays could be the difference between a win or a loss.