Detroit Lions: Why to watch Cornelius Lucas

NFL_Draft_2010_set_at_Radio_City_Music_HallThe Detroit Lions had offensive lineman Cornelius Lucas on their radar throughout the draft process. First, assistant offensive line coach Bobby Johnson had an in-depth conversation with Lucas at the combine, and later Detroit was on the phone with him during the draft’s third day. After Lucas wasn’t drafted, the Lions made sure to scoop him up as quickly as possible. He agreed to sign with Detroit — a deal that included a $20K signing bonus — a short 15 minutes after the draft concluded.

Lucas is of monster size. The Kansas State product measures in at 6-foot-8 and 320 pounds. He went undrafted largely because a February foot stress fracture kept him sidelined throughout most of pre-draft process. He wasn’t able to hold many private workouts after his surgery, so most teams didn’t get a a chance to see what he could do. The injury was the major deterrent to NFL teams drafting him, despite the fact that he was projected to be a mid-to-late round choice.

In the end, Lucas chose Detroit because he felt like they showed the most interest in him. Lucas will now use the fact that he wasn’t drafted as motivation in his quest to make the Lions’ final roster.

Fortunately for Lucas, the Lions lack for depth at the tackle position, which is why I consider Lucas to have a great shot at making the team. Last year’s starters at tackle — Riley Reiff and LaAdrian Waddle — are still with Detroit, but the position runs thin after backup Corey Hilliard. The Lions are going to keep four tackles on their roster out of training camp, and because the Lions are open to using him at either tackle spot, Lucas will be a major contender for the fourth spot on the depth chart.

detroit lions

Waddle with Texas Tech.

Like Lucas, Waddle went undrafted out of Texas Tech last year. Yet, he was able to work his way onto the roster, and Waddle went on to start Detroit’s final eight games at right tackle after poor play and injuries left him atop the depth chart. Lucas is going to have to hone his size to maximize his potential if he hopes to follow a similar path this season.

Lucas started at left tackle the past two season for the Kansas State Wildcats. He had the longest arms out of anyone in the draft, a reason the Lions kept their eye on him. His long reach and big size will be his two strongest assets as he tries to prove himself worthy of making the cut.

As big as he is, Lucas has yet to put it all together. He has been criticized for not having the strength to match his size, for not using his lower body to become more explosive, and for standing up instead of staying low too often. The fact that he is underpowered can be changed with work in the weight room, just as his mechanics can be refined through quality coaching. Hopefully Lucas is determined to put in work, because I can only image what an anchor he could be if he were to maximize his potential. He would be one imposing counterpart to Reiff.

Regardless of his weaknesses, his towering size and potential are enough reasons for me to put him on the roster. I expect Lucas to be that fourth tackle this season, where he can learn ins and outs of the NFL and continue to grow as a player.