Breaking Down All the New Faces on the 2014 Detroit Lions
All minicamps and OTAs have officially wrapped up, meaning the Detroit Lions are off until training camp next month.
Between then and now, there isn't likely to be too much roster movement, so this is the perfect time to take a look at the new faces in Detroit and start to associate their stories with their names.
But brace yourself. There are quite a few new Lions who are battling for roster and practice-squad spots, and most of them aren't household names.
Quarterback James Franklin
At least we'll start with a run of players who either are a lock to make the team or will be fighting for a chance to don the Honolulu Blue in 2014.
Quarterback James Franklin falls under the latter category.
The 6'2", 230-pound signal-caller from Missouri posted a ridiculous season in 2011 (2,865 passing yards, 981 rushing yards, 36 total touchdowns) and has been slowed by injuries since.
Due to head coach Jim Caldwell's preferred teaching style, he wasn't allowed to take any snaps during the most recent minicamp.
Don't worry, though. Franklin will be given a legitimate shot to beat out the polarizing Kellen Moore, opinions of whom range from incredibly optimistic to unbelievably dour.
Fullback Jed Collins
The Lions haven't employed a full-time fullback in a couple years. Caldwell and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi are apparently believers in the position and brought in Jed Collins to fill that void.
Collins has experience working with Lombardi from their time together in New Orleans. Presumably, the new offense will have plenty of similarities that should allow Collins to pick things up quickly.
That is good because he's the only veteran on the roster at the position other than Montell Owens.
Collins will be relied on for lead blocking, pass protection and occasional receiving. He has seven career touchdowns in his three-year career.
Fullback Chad Abram
While Collins will start out training camp with the first team, Chad Abram will do his best to make Collins feel anything but certain about his spot.
And that's because the Florida State product has talent.
Abram posted a 4.52 40 at his pro day and has the right type of build (6'0", 236 lbs) to handle the workload. His lack of experience may keep him from dislodging Collins, but Abram could sell the front office on the idea of carrying two fullbacks if he can contribute significantly on special teams.
Tight End Eric Ebron
The Lions created a mild shock when they selected Eric Ebron with the 10th overall pick. Now, Ebron wants to mildly shock the football world again by bringing home the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
The rookie hasn't hid that he struggled to understand the concepts and complicated language that Lombardi's offense brought to the table.
However, DetroitLions.com's Tim Twentymen reports that he's been looking better in practice because he's starting to understand his responsibilities, and his natural talent is starting to shine through.
The 6'4" move-all-over-the-field tight end can use his size or his 4.6 speed to create a mismatch with any defender opposite him, save for the cream of the crop. He might not get enough looks to take home the offensive ROY, but he'll still be an excellent option at tight end for fantasy purposes.
Tight End Jordan Thompson
Things are going to start getting weird now.
The first player we encounter who has a less than a 3.5 percent chance of making the roster is tight end Jordan Thompson.
Thompson stands 6'4" and weighs 248 pounds. While his prototypical size is worth a look, the Ohio Bobcat, who went undrafted in 2012, isn't going to take out any of the tight ends above him on the depth chart.
He hauled in 60 catches for 666 yards and six touchdowns. I guess the guy likes symmetry.
Tight End Jacob Maxwell
Jacob Maxwell's time at Louisiana-Lafayette wasn't as productive as Thompson's, but Maxwell isn't without his value.
The former Rajun Cajun posted a 4.62 40-yard dash, which is a just a couple of ticks shy of Ebron's impressive performance.
The big difference is Maxwell's 36 catches for 377 yards and six scores. That lack of production doesn't bode well when fighting for a fringe roster or practice-squad spot.
Wide Receiver Golden Tate
The apple of the Lions' offseason eye is Golden Tate.
Detroit ended the season with a wide receiver depth chart that would have trouble making some junior colleges jealous outside of Calvin Johnson. Tate's arrival instantly gave Detroit a top duo that could now rival any in the league.
Tate's steady hands (six drops in the last two years) and ability to make a play after the catch (530 yards YAC) will provide a huge boost to an offense that was desperately lacking in outside explosion. He should enjoy a nice bump in his numbers all across the board in Detroit's new offense.
Wide Receiver TJ Jones
Detroit waited until the sixth round to grab another receiver, but they might have found a steal in TJ Jones.
The former Notre Dame No. 1 receiver proved his mettle with 1,108 yards receiving his senior season to pair with nine scores. Though he is only 6'0", he did blaze his way to a 4.46 40 at the combine.
His lack of size means Jones will spend most of his time in the slot. Luckily for him, Detroit has a huge need in this area.
Wide Receiver Andrew Peacock
I've written over and over again that the signing of Andrew Peacock makes little sense. I understand the concept of churning the bottom of the roster in an effort to unearth a diamond, but Peacock seems an unlikely candidate at a position with plenty of mediocre talent.
Peacock hails from Appalachian State, where the competition couldn't keep up with him. He notched 79 catches and 795 yards during his senior season.
His 5'9" frame isn't offset by enough speed or athleticism to see him making the roster or the practice squad.
Offensive Tackle A.J. Dalton
The Lions struck gold with LaAdrian Waddle in undrafted free agency last offseason. Apparently, they think they can do it again by bringing in a few more.
The first of which is A.J. Dalton.
Dalton played all four years of college ball at Robert Morris, starting 37 games. He was selected as an All-American his senior season, but it's hard to see him making the rather large jump from the Northeast Conference to the NFL.
Offensive Tackle Bryce Quigley
I know you've been wondering who would replace Chris Houston. Worry no more, it's offensive tackle Bryce Quigley.
Obviously, it's not, but the offensive tackle from San Diego State was the one who took his roster spot last week.
Quigley will be a long shot to make the team. He has the size (6'4" and 302 lbs), but he could still be recovering from a torn foot tendon, which DetroitLions.com's Tim Twentymen supposes is the reason he wasn't drafted.
Offensive Tackle J.B. Shugarts
J.B. Shugarts isn't like the other tackles on this list because he isn't a 2014 undrafted free agent. He went through those rites in 2012 when the Cleveland Browns inked him.
Despite his 6'6", 305-pound frame, Shugarts isn't much of a threat to knock anyone off the active roster. He does have an outside chance at the practice squad.
Offensive Tackle Cornelius Lewis
Cornelius Lucas, the mountain of an offensive tackle from Kansas State, is the most likely undrafted free agent to make the roster. In fact, it's nearly certain.
Teams don't go throwing around large bonuses at these guys, and Lucas was able to extract $20,000 from the Lions for signing on the dotted line.
He stands 6'9" and is one of the few rookies who faced off against competitive talent on a regular basis. Those two advantages should give him a leg up on the competition.
Offensive Guard DJ Morrell
The Lions could need a new guard sooner rather than later if Rob Sims doesn't rebound from his subpar 2013 season. However, D.J. Morrell won't be filling that gap anytime soon.
Morrell is another member of this year's undrafted free-agency class, but he certainly didn't receive the bonus that Lucas was rewarded.
The guard from Old Dominion made 25 college starts and stands 6'5" and 325 pounds. That won't be enough to make the 53-man roster.
Offensive Guard Alex Bullard
Rodney Austin and the next guy on this list probably mean Alex Bullard will be following Morrell out the door.
Bullard, like Lucas, saw plenty of top-level competition at Tennessee. However, unlike Lucas, it probably won't save him.
His versatility, with games started at both center and guard, could cause the staff to give him a second and even third look. It just won't be enough in the end.
Offensive Lineman Travis Swanson
I purposely didn't give Travis Swanson a specific position because any contribution he has this year will likely not be at his future position.
Swanson was drafted in the third round with the notion of eventually replacing Dominic Raiola. However, he's been practicing at guard as well because a backup center with no other purpose is a tough roster proposition.
Swanson won't be cut under any circumstances because of his lofty draft status and eventual mission. Hopefully, the rookie won't be counted on to do much before he is ready in a year or two.
Defensive Tackle Caraun Reid
Caraun Reid is another name who is safe as we head toward training camp.
The defensive tackle from Princeton has a thick, strong build that he can use to hold up against the run. He also has the same slashing style as Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, meaning he could be a valuable part of a deep defensive end rotation.
The Lions apparently believe the foregoing as well. They cut veteran Vaughn Martin recently, signifying Reid's ascension up the depth chart.
Defensive Tackle Greg Hickman
Another small-school prospect was brought in by the Detroit Lions to determine his value at the back end of the depth chart. This time, I can't see it working out for the young man.
Greg Hickman hails from Florida International. He was signed after an impressive workout, but that doesn't mean Hickman now has a spot carved out for him.
More than likely, Hickman will be out with the first round of cuts. He is too small (6'0", 278 lbs) to handle all the duties required of a professional defensive tackle.
Defensive End Kalonji Kashama
Another slide and it's another defensive lineman who isn't likely to remain on the roster.
Kalonji Kashama is another small-school prospect. He played his college ball just around the bend at Eastern Michigan and even earned a selection in the Canadian Football league.
Kashama may want to mull that offer over. There's little room for a pass-rusher from the MAC who had just 5.5 sacks his senior season in that conference.
Defensive End Darryl Tapp
If you remembered the name Darryl Tapp when the Lions signed him, it was more likely you recalled his time at Virginia Tech than anything he's done in the NFL.
Earlier in his career, he did have two seasons where he racked up 5.5 sacks in one and seven in the other, but those are his only two with more than three.
Tapp is a reserve linebacker/defensive end tweener. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will probably deploy him in a variety of ways, but he's still a guy who logged only 86 snaps last season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He'll likely end the 2014 season with a few more, just don't expect Tapp to be a major contributor.
Defensive End George Johnson
Compared to most of the guys on this list, George Johnson is a grizzled veteran.
He's only appeared in 11 games throughout his career. With the defensive ends Detroit has on the roster, it'll be surprising if he adds to that roster number.
Defensive End Larry Webster
Larry Webster's selection in 2014 draft pick by general manager Martin Mayhew caused the most head-scratching. He has a ton of raw athletic ability, but he's still a guy who has only played two seasons of football after a full college basketball career.
The fourth round was a bit of a stretch. However, Webster's workout numbers were similar to that of Jedeveon Clowney, so it's easy to see what made Detroit jump the gun.
As far as 2014 projections, Webster shouldn't be counted on to accumulate any stats. His time would probably be better spent developing on the practice squad.
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's defense will be predicated on bringing pressure from a variety of places. In order to accomplish that, Mayhew needed to get somebody who could be employed at those different angles.
And Mayhew didn't sit on his hands. He moved up in the second round and drafted the athletic Kyle Van Noy to round out the front seven.
Van Noy can drop back into coverage, stuff the run and rush the passer. Clearly, he's exactly what the coordinator ordered.
Linebacker Justin Jackson
At this point, I'm getting tired of crushing people's dreams. That's the unfortunate consequence of having 90-member summer rosters that have to be cut down to 53 by the season's start.
Linebacker Justin Jackson will almost certainly be one of those cut to get the roster down to the appropriate number.
He was brought on for his versatility, having played both inside and outside linebacker at Wake Forest. Hopefully for him, that ability will lead to him grabbing a practice-squad spot.
Cornerback Nevin Lawson
Many presumed the Lions would address the cornerback position much earlier than the fourth-round pick they spent on Nevin Lawson. However, that's not how the board broke. Many of the earlier available corners would have been reaches, or at least that's how the Detroit brass saw it.
Lawson has been getting reps as the second nickelback throughout the offseason, per Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press, but that position will certainly be up for grabs between him and veteran Cassius Vaughn.
He only stands 5'9" and probably won't be making any runs at either outside position.
Cornerback Aaron Hester
Aaron Hester comes to the Lions after a short stint with the Denver Broncos. They cut him before the 2013 season started.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin covets bigger cornerbacks, and that's likely the reason Hester was brought in. He stands 6'1" and packs on 207 pounds.
Hester probably won't factor into the rotation too much this season. He could be headed for the practice squad, though.
Cornerback Mohammed Seisay
The man Hester will be fighting with to lock down that practice-squad spot is Mohammed Seisay.
Seisay is an undrafted free agent from Nebraska who also has great size. He's even taller than Hester, standing 6'2" and weighing 200 pounds.
The biggest concern with Seisay is he couldn't break into the starting lineup in college. Still, that didn't stop the Lions from giving him a rare $5,000 signing bonus.
Safety Gabe Lynn
As has often been the case throughout this slideshow, Gabe Lynn was acquired because he can line up in a couple of different positions.
Lynn played both safety and cornerback at Oklahoma. He started 25 games while notching 116 tackles, four interceptions and 2.5 sacks.
At 6'0" and 206 pounds, Lynn does have the size. His athleticism (33" vertical) is merely adequate, but a good camp could end in a practice-squad invite.
Safety Isa Abdul-Quddus
Finally, a former undrafted free agent who isn't destined for the unemployment line or practice squad.
The Lions signed safety Isa Abdul-Quddus shortly after the season wrapped. The signing seemed a bit ambitious, but his 6'1" and 220-pound stature was probably the reason Detroit didn't waste any time.
Abdul-Quddus hasn't logged many snaps in his first three seasons, but he will provide some valuable depth at the back end of the defense in 2014.
Safety Jerome Couplin
Jerome Couplin has been in Detroit a short time, but the undrafted free agent has a bit of a cult following among the faithful.
It's all due to his size (6'1", 213 lbs) and playing style. Couplin's tape shows a guy who likes to mix it up and get aggressive, as his 257 career tackles would attest.
And his athleticism, illustrated by his 41.5" vertical jump, was the clincher. But he will need to learn quickly if he's going to curb the mental errors that could end his pro career in a hurry.
Safety James Ihedigbo
The second-biggest splash the Lions made in free agency was overlooked by most of the league. I assure you that everyone in Detroit is paying attention to James Ihedigbo.
The strong safety followed Austin to Detroit because Austin put him in a great position to succeed, and Ihedigbo responded with his best season to date (4.7 PFF grade).
His presence will help Detroit turn the safety position into a relative strength, something the Lions will need if they're going to cover up their cornerback problem.
Kicker Nate Freese
The Lions haven't been able to find a replacement for Jason Hanson and were hoping the selection of Nate Freese in the seventh round would address the issue.
It's easy to understand why. He finished his senior season as the best kicker in the country, connecting on all 20 of his field-goal attempts.
However, he hasn't been as automatic in practice yet, missing one from 46 and another from 48 yards out. If Freese wants the job and the roster spot, he'll have to beat out a motivated Giorgio Tavecchio.
All rookie measureables are courtesy of NFL.com. If the player didn't have a profiles on NFL.com, the measureables are sourced from NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com). All professional stats are sourced from Pro Football Focus and some require a subscription.
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