Report Card Grades for Detroit Lions' Undrafted Free Agent Signings
It's all over.
You waited months for the draft, watched intently and now know everything about all eight rookies the Detroit Lions selected.
But don't turn to your fantasy baseball team just yet. It has survived a couple months of your neglect, and it isn't like there are 140-something games left.
Did you know that the Lions signed 11 undrafted free agents? And last year alone, they found two guys who made significant contributions to the team?
You did? And you were aware that LaAdrian Waddle started eight games, and Joseph Fauria recorded seven scores and just as many ridiculously awesome dances?
Quarterback James Franklin
James Franklin will bring something to the table that neither Dan Orlovsky nor Kellen Moore can—athleticism.
Sure, Orlovsky has shown off his wheels when it comes to getting away from the likes of Jared Allen, but he doesn't seem to be able to combine that with functional vision. I swear I'm not bitter.
Franklin, meanwhile, posted 981 rushing yards, 2,865 passing yards and 36 total touchdowns in 2011. He never reached the heights of his sophomore year again, but he proved what he was capable of.
Moore has his supporters among the faithful thanks to his intelligence and winning ways in Boise. But this isn't the Mountain West, and the coaches who advocated for him a couple of years ago are gone.
Franklin should be in the mix for the practice squad by the end of camp. And maybe a roster spot in 2015.
Fullback Chad Abram
New head coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi are bringing back the fullback. We thought they had addressed the issue with the signing of former Saint Jed Collins, but competition in camp is healthy.
Therefore, Chad Abram of Florida State is now a Lion.
There's a lot to like here. Abram is everything you'd want out of a fullback.
He has decent size (6'0", 236 pounds) and surprising speed (4.58). He also showed off a little flair when jumping over a defender for the end zone in the national title game.
Fullbacks aren't a hot commodity, which is probably the only reason he wasn't drafted. There will be a competition this summer at the fullback spot, and the odds might be closer to even than you think.
Wide Receiver Andrew Peacock
The Lions grabbed only one wide receiver in a draft that was filled with potential starters. Here's betting the signing of Andrew Peacock isn't going to make fans forget that.
Peacock showed off his hands at Appalachian State, hauling in 79 catches for 795 yards. However, there's another takeaway from those stats: Peacock lacks explosion.
A 10-yard average in college isn't going to turn any heads. He was a possession receiver and followed that up with a 4.72 40-yard dash at his pro day.
He also doesn't have much height at just 5'9". Peacock will be fighting for a slot position that is now overwhelmed with candidates such as Eric Ebron, T.J. Jones and maybe even Ryan Broyles.
The Lions must have seen something they like. Considering the guys they already have, this seems like a curious signing at best.
Tight End Jacob Maxwell
Since we spent the entire draft breaking down why the Lions drafted a tight end when they already had two starters on the roster, what's a little more tight end talk?
Jacob Maxwell was added to the class shortly after the draft Saturday night.
The tight end from Louisiana-Lafayette has prototypical size at 6'3" and 249 pounds. He also has decent speed according to his 4.68 40 and solid-for-his-size athleticism (38.5" vertical).
He recorded only six touchdowns over his 20 games at Louisiana-Lafayette, but it's easy to see his potential. In fact, Detroit wanted him so badly that they gave him a $3,000 signing bonus, which is pretty rare.
If it weren't for his position, this would have rated much higher.
Offensive Tackle Cornelius Lewis
As mentioned in the intro slide, the Lions struck gold in tackle LaAdrian Waddle last offseason. That's probably why they were so aggressive in going after offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas.
A couple signing bonuses for #Lions UDFAs: OG A.J. Dalton got $2,500, TE Jacob Maxwell got $3k and OT Cornelius Lucas got $20k— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) May 11, 2014
It's uncommon for a team to offer a signing bonus for these guys. The fact that the Lions felt they had to give Lucas such a significant bonus means there was some serious competition for his services.
For one, Lucas passes the eye test. He stands 6'8" and packs on 330 pounds with a wing span over 88 inches. He easily has the physical tools necessary.
Not everyone is sold on Riley Reiff at left tackle. He did a decent job last season, but there is room for improvement.
Will Lucas be that guy? It's way too early to tell, but the possibility certainly exists.
Offensive Guard Alex Bullard
Offensive guard Rob Sims won't be around forever. In fact, there are signs that he is already regressing, such as his more than 15-point tumble in Pro Football Focus' grading system in 2013 (subscription required).
One possibility is Riley Reiff being kicked to guard once a proper replacement is found for him. Another option is finding a guard. Crazy, huh?
In all seriousness, locking down Bullard's vital statistics has been sketchy at best. The University of Tennessee's website lists him at 6'2" and 302 pounds. However, NFLDraftScout.com lists him at 6'3" and 326 pounds at his pro day.
The latter would be more befitting a guard in the NFL. Regardless, there are probably better options than Bullard for the job.
Offensive Guard D.J. Morrell
One such better option to succeed Sims is D.J. Morrell. With him, there are no potential concerns about his size since he checks in at 6'5" and 325 pounds.
He's not devoid of talent either. In his only matchup with a top-tier talent, he held first-round pick Aaron Donald in check and generated a little buzz for himself in the process.
Obviously, that wasn't enough to get him drafted. He didn't see much competition on a weekly basis, but he will this summer.
Linebacker Justin Jackson
The Lions are looking for ways to get creative pressure on the quarterback. The drafting of Kyle Van Noy in the second round was a great first step, and the signing of linebacker Justin Jackson could pay dividends down the road.
During his time at Wake Forest, Jackson put together a nice career. He finished with 197 tackles, including 20.5 for a loss and seven sacks.
Those stats might not jump off the page, but his workout numbers certainly do. He has been recorded running a 4.44 and has a ridiculous 39.5" vertical to go along with an impressive 10'3" broad jump (although there is at least one reference out there to a 10'8" version).
Jackson has the raw ability to be a playmaker at the next level. Those physical metrics suggest he'll give Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis a run for a linebacking/special-teams roster spot. And there's only one left with Van Noy pushing Ashlee Palmer to reserve.
Cornerback Mohammed Seisay
Much like a pass-rushing linebacker, the Lions "bolstered" the cornerback position with one draft choice and an undrafted free agent. That's certain to go over well in Detroit.
After selecting Nevin Lawson in the fourth round, Detroit inked Mohammed Seisay. The differences between the two are vast.
Seisay is the prototypical new-age cornerback in size. He stands 6'2" and weighs 200 pounds, giving him plenty to work with against today's bigger wide receivers.
However, he couldn't work his way into the starting lineup at the University of Nebraska.
Despite the size and athleticism (39" vertical and 11' broad jump), the lack of playing time is worrisome. I want to give them a decent grade because why not kick the tires on a big corner for cheap, but even a roster spot comes at a cost.
Safety Gabe Lynn
One defensive back gets killed because he couldn't get on the field, another because he doesn't seem to have the athleticism. The NFL is a cruel league.
Gabe Lynn started for two years in Okalahoma's secondary. He was used mostly as a safety but logged some time at corner as well. He finished the 2013 season with 57 tackles and four interceptions.
Those are fair numbers.
What isn't fair is that Lynn is only 6'0" and runs a 4.58 40-yard dash. He doesn't have the look of a strong safety nor the range of a free safety.
If he makes the team, it would probably be as an interior cornerback. However, with all the competition at that group, it will be a tough road for Lynn.
Safety Jerome Couplin
The slideshow was formatted by position, but you could accuse me of saving the best for last. Safety Jerome Couplin is a beast.
The 6'2", 213-pound safety can handle himself in the box. Couplin used that stellar size to rack up 113 tackles last year alone. Not that the two can be compared yet, but those are Deone Bucannon numbers.
And, coincidentally, he was a finalist for the Buchanan award given out to best defensive player in the FCS.
Lastly, he piled on six pass breakups and two forced fumbles, giving Detroit a safety that can play the ball whether it's in the air or in someone's hands.
Detroit failed to address the safety position in the draft but hit a home run in undrafted free agency. Couplin is a great candidate to learn the ins and outs of the position from James Ihedigbo while getting groomed to take over for him in a year or two.
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