Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
I got a chance to talk to someone who watched the entire weekend of rookie camp. In conjunction with what I’ve seen on game tape for almost all of these guys, here are thoughts on the chances for the undrafted rookies.
These are in order of likelihood to make the final 53-man roster.
Cornelius Lucas–the giant offensive tackle was a major priority signing for the Lions. As if the $20K signing bonus wasn’t an indication, the Lions were apparently in contact with Lucas before the third day of the draft even started.
From my source:
We had a pretty strong idea he wasn’t going to get drafted because of his foot (he had a stress fracture which wiped out his workout season). Our regional scout had a strong grade on him, so the wheels got in motion early.
From my own notes:
I rewatched two KSU games, the BWW Bowl against Michigan and the Oklahoma game. The first thing that stands out, as it did earlier, is that he’s a natural knee bender even though he’s over 6’8”. He uses his length very well and understands how to extend his arms at pad level to defenders who are often several inches shorter than him. He even cut blocks well, although once he goes down he’s not getting up until the play is over. His foot frequency is subpar and he doesn’t reset well against quicker rush moves or stunts/twists.
To compare him to a recognizable NFL player, think Max Starks of the Steelers. He started at left tackle for two Super Bowl winners, getting by on sheer length and determination more than technical skills. Most Pittsburgh fans wanted him replaced every year, but they couldn’t find anyone better for almost a decade. I see a valuable 3rd tackle who definitely makes the 53-man roster.
Chad Abram–he’s not getting the publicity of some others, but the Florida State fullback has two major advantages in his quest to make the team.
First, he’s one of only two fullbacks on the roster. Joe Lombardi’s offense, if the Saints offense is to be a guide, uses a fullback on almost exactly 50% of the snaps. The Lions are not going to enter the regular season with no real backup for Jed Collins.
Second, he can play all four special teams units. Remember, he’s a former safety who hit like a linebacker. He’s almost exactly the same size as Ashlee Palmer, only faster. Bottom of the roster players have to make major impact on special teams, and Abram can do that.
That point was reiterated by my Lions source:
Oh yeah, he can help on (special) teams. He wants to hit people when he’s watching film. I mean, it’s easy to see how he fits in.
James Franklin–he has to beat out Kellen Moore for the third QB spot. The team likes his athleticism and his arm, but his accuracy and inability to make quick decisions have to get ironed out quickly. It was made pretty clear to me that the perception that Franklin’s ability to emulate more mobile QBs in practice is being overplayed by many, myself included.
The impression I got when I prodded a little is that Franklin’s chances are more about how Kellen Moore performs than his own skills. Take that for what it is.
Jerome Couplin–The Osprey has quickly assumed fan favorite status, much like Kickalicious did a year ago. Lions fans rallied hard behind Havard Rugland, only to see him fade as the offseason progressed and not land any NFL gig.
Couplin has a little more going for him than Rugland. There aren’t many guys with his length and speed combination, and he had some productivity in the highest FCS-level conference at William & Mary.
I got to watch coach’s tape of two of his games at W&M, against Villanova from 2013 and Lafayette from 2012. Don’t shoot the messenger here, but it’s pretty obvious from watching those why Couplin went undrafted despite being an athletic marvel.
Watching him reminded me so much of watching Taylor Mays at USC. There’s an almost painful lack of anticipation on his part, and even once he sees the play he can be late to react to the action. He’s a little more fluid that Mays, with looser ankles and hips, but that’s not saying much.
There were three plays in the Lafayette game where he closed on the ball very hard but was out of control and couldn’t finish the play because of it. He’s either going too slow or too fast; there’s very little medium. Most of his tackles were of the clean-up variety, not anything he initiated. He’s quite good at that though.
He looked better in coverage against Villanova, including a very athletic PD on a well-thrown ball. He also was very late to react and get to the sideline on two other throws, plays he should have and needed to make.
Having seen and scouted current Lions Isa Abdul Quddus and DeJon Gomes, I have no problem at all in declaring that both of those Detroit reserves offer more to the team in 2014 than Couplin possibly can.
My source was pretty tight-lipped on him, other than to praise his attitude and reiterate how impressive it is to watch him work out, even in warmups.
My strong guess is that Couplin spends 2014 on the practice squad but will get a legit chance to be the third or fourth safety in 2015. He’s a developmental project and needs to be viewed as such. Sorry folks.
Alex Bullard–The Tennessee offensive lineman stands a very strong chance of making the practice squad for one simple reason. He can play every single spot along the line, though his best spot is left guard.
The team signed him in part because of that, but also because of his short-area combat skills. To quote my source, “Bullard creates movement. He’s an instigator. That’s something we value up front.”
At minimum, he makes it past the first wave of preseason cuts.
Andrew Peacock–He’s a player I still have not seen play one down, though I hope to remedy that this week. To reiterate the scouting report I got from a colleague who has seen him several times, he’s a quicker-than-fast slot receiver with an outside receiver’s game. If that sounds like Patrick Edwards, you’re not alone. Peacock outweighs Edwards by over 20 pounds but his 40-time is almost .4 slower than the holdover Lion. The team likes his strong hands and his all-out effort. He’s a longshot.
Justin Jackson–There’s a fair chance the Wake Forest, and Richmond before that, linebacker makes the practice squad. He’s loaded with quick-twitch muscle and sees the ball well. The early returns were pretty positive; his ability to close on the ball impressed the Lions.
None of the others have much of a chance to even make the practice squad. In fact, a couple of them might be moved off and replaced before the next wave of team activities commence later this week.