The Detroit Lions are getting into the swing of things with Organized Team Activities, or OTAs, now underway and the NFL season beginning in less than 100 days. Detroit’s mandatory minicamp begins in two weeks and most of the rookies still have a lot to prove if they want a shot at the 53-man roster.
The Lions drafted an average class in my opinion, but pre-draft scouting reports can effectively be thrown out the window at this time. It’s time for the rookies to get on the football field and prove they have what it takes to make an NFL roster. Let’s see which of Detroit’s rookies are most likely to do so:
Eric Ebron, TE: Detroit’s first-round selection will immediately contribute in the passing game. While many are haters of the pick because of how badly the Lions need defensive help, Ebron’s athleticism and catching ability will soon quiet the haters.
Kyle Van Noy, LB: Van Noy should become an immediate starter over Ashlee Palmer in Teryl Austin’s 4-3 defense. His versatility will keep him on the field for Detroit’s defense.
Nate Freese, K: Freese, whom the Lions selected in the draft’s last round, will become the starting kicker next year with David Akers out of the picture. He didn’t miss a field goal as a senior last year and should have plenty of chances to put points on the board in the Lion’s pass-happy offense.
Travis Swanson, C: Swanson will step in as the backup to Dominic Raiola. He will learn the ropes from the veteran while remaining ready to fill-in in the case of an injury.
Cornelius Lucas, OT: This is my long-shot pick of the rookies to make the roster. Lucas, an undrafted free agent, didn’t get offered a $20K signing bonus for nothing. The guy is huge (6-foot-9, 328 pounds) and should be able to utilize his size, strength and long reach to become one of the Lions’ backup tackles.
Nevin Lawson, CB: Defensive backs flew off the board in the NFL Draft’s fourth round which left Detroit with Utah State’s Nevin Lawson. Lawson only stands 5-foot-9 but the Lions sorely need help in the defensive backfield.
Larry Webster, DE: Webster’s 40-yard dash was the second fastest for defensive ends at the combine. The Lions were seeking speed off the edge in this year’s draft and Webster has it, which is what gives him a good shot at making the final roster.
T.J. Jones, WR: In Detroit’s offense, can you really ever have enough passing targets? The answer is no, and with Nate Burleson long gone and Ryan Broyles still working to come back from his latest injury Jones has a legitimate shot at making the team. He has experience returning punts as well, which means he could be able to make the roster solely as a special teams player.
Caraun Reid, DT: There can never be enough big bodies to plug the gaps in a 4-3 defensive scheme.
Jerome Couplin, S: Couplin was signed as an undrafted free agent out of William and Mary, which also happens to be where the Lion’s secondary coach played his college football. Combine that with his 6-foot-2 height and Detroit desperately needing defensive back help, and Couplin’s chance at making the roster increases.
I don’t see any of the remaining undrafted free agents having a real shot at making the 53-man roster. The biggest name I left out was quarterback James Franklin out of Missouri. While he is a dual-threat, he still is going to have to beat out Kellen Moore to become the third-string quarterback. Even if he does that, he will most likely not suit up on game days.