2011 Lions Post-Draft Activity: 5 Undrafted Free Agents the Lions Should Target.
It is no secret to Lions fans that Martin Mayhew has done more in his first three drafts as the head of the organization, than Matt Millen did in his entirety at the same position. The talent on the Lions roster has shot through the roof compared to any time during the Millen regime. This year's draft added to that talent pool and has Lions fans hopeful for a playoff run in the near future.
Mayhew's only disappointment after this past draft was that they only could draft five players. This left the Lions with some of the exact same holes that they were supposed to address via the draft, headed into a free-agency market that has no timetable in which it will begin.
When/if it does begin, expect the Lions to try to fill the holes at linebacker and cornerback, as well as possibly adding some offensive line help. I fully expect that Stephen Tulloch will get the same treatment that Kyle Vanden Bosch received a year ago and will come to play for a former coach who has a need at his position.
While Tulloch can help the Lions, they will need to do more work in free agency to help propel the Lions into the playoffs. Here are a look at some of this year's undrafted free agents who could help the Lions in the next couple of years.
Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College
While many draft experts had him going in the third to fifth round, he slipped out of the draft class all together. This is likely because of his bout with cancer, over which he was victorious. Many people thought the Lions would take him with their fourth-round selection and now that he is a free agent, the Lions could pick him up for dirt cheap.
His history with cancer makes him a slight risk, but the fact that he was able to come back and play suggests that it is a thing of the past. The Lions could get a fourth-round value out of free agency, who could fight for a starting spot soon.
He would make a nice addition to the locker room and could eventually develop into a starter for the Lions. I am surprised the Lions passed on him in the fifth round, but they could get still get him and have him compete for a job in the future.
Charlie Gantt, TE, Michigan State
I know the Lions already have a bunch of good tight ends on their team, but solidifying a team strength was the name of the game this past draft.
Gantt is a big body who is a good blocker. He also possesses good hands and was the recipient of the famous "Little Giants" play that Michigan State beat Notre Dame on this past season.
He could add depth to an already deep group, but could also compete for a special teams position.
Deunta Williams, DB, North Carolina
The Lions need secondary help, and they haven't yet looked into addressing it. Williams is a guy with good size at 6'2", 205 lbs, and could develop into a good press corner. His past injuries and character concerns are worth overlooking since we are talking about rookie free agency and not the draft.
Mark Dell, WR, Michigan State
A physical receiver, Dell led the Spartans in receiving yards this past season. At 6'2", 200 lbs, he can can create mismatches for smaller corners. While I haven't yet given up on Derrick Williams, introducing another receiver to challenge for his roster spot could have a positive effect on both Williams and Dell. Since the Lions already drafted Titus Young, it would be a move to add depth in case of injury.
Dell hopes to follow the same path as former teammate Blair White, who was signed as an UDFA last year by the Colts and became a prominent player for them throughout the season.
John Clay, RB, Wisconsin
While he is admittedly the size of an offensive lineman, he has good feet and balance for a big guy and has a knack for the end zone. He had 14 TDs and 996 yards last season despite splitting time with two other running backs. He is an absolute tank, making him a perfect goal line ball carrier.
The addition of Mikel Leshoure means that he would see very limited time, but his size could help him double as a fullback. Jerome Felton is the only FB on the Lions roster, so this might be a nice addition as he can play two positions. He reminds me of another Wisconsin great in Ron Dayne. Who knows, with his size he might add OL help as well.
All of these guys are undrafted for a reason, but that doesn't mean that none of them will have successful NFL careers. There happened to be 23 players in this past Pro Bowl who went undrafted. The Lions could be the team to give them a chance and have them for a long time to come.
Sometimes all a guy needs is an opportunity, and these guys are all worth looking into. I say sign them to a league minimum contract and give them a chance; you never know when you might find a diamond in the rough. Who knows, the next James Harrison, Arian Foster or Bart Scott could be out there, waiting for someone to give them a chance.