Detroit Lions: Corey Fuller

The offseason workouts have concluded and with players and coaches about six weeks away from the start of training camp, one last rest and individualized training period will commence.

After a month of workouts, though, there have been some players who have made cases for potential roster spots in the fall and others who did not help themselves nearly as much.

Just like the start of the spring workouts, here is a look at the Detroit depth chart – along with a post-minicamp guess at the 53-man roster that could end up being the Lions’ team in the fall. Remember, a lot can change between now and then.

Changes from our May offensive prediction are in parentheses.

QUARTERBACK:

Projected starter: Matthew Stafford (no change)

Backups (in projected depth-chart order for now): Dan Orlovsky; Kellen Moore; James Franklin (no changes)

Thoughts: Stafford remains Detroit’s starter and barring injury, that won’t change. Orlovsky will be the No. 2 quarterback – and that probably isn’t changing, either. The main battle in camp will be between Moore and Franklin for the No. 3 spot, if the Lions take a third quarterback. Franklin took no snaps in the spring, but Lions head coach Jim Caldwell indicated he’ll see live game action in the preseason.

Roster locks: Stafford; Orlovsky (add Orlovsky)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Stafford, Orlovsky, Franklin (practice squad) (Franklin from 53-man to practice squad)

RUNNING BACK

Projected starter(s): Reggie Bush/Joique Bell

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Theo Riddick, Mikel Leshoure, Steven Miller.

Thoughts: Bush and Bell aren’t going anywhere. Riddick was one of the stars of the spring and looks like he’ll end up having a role in the offense beyond special teams this season. Leshoure missed part of spring workouts, so it is tough to say where his role will be this season, if he has one. But Detroit has its first three running backs pretty set right now unless it makes a free-agent move at the position.

Roster locks: Bush, Bell, Riddick (add Riddick)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Bush, Bell, Riddick, Leshoure (no changes)

FULLBACK

Projected starter: Jed Collins.

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Montell Owens, Chad Abram.

Thoughts: This is a tough position to pick. Collins is the clear favorite heading into camp, although Owens’ spot on the roster could depend how Detroit feels about the rest of its teams units. If there is comfort there from other spots, Owens might be out of a job. If not, the Lions might keep him along with Collins because Owens can be a running back as well. Abram is probably headed toward the practice squad.

Roster locks: None. (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Collins, Owens, Abram (practice squad) (add Owens to 53-man, move Abram to practice squad)

WIDE RECEIVER

Projected starters: Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Jeremy Ross, Ryan Broyles, Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree, TJ Jones, Corey Fuller, Naaman Roosevelt, Patrick Edwards, Cody Wilson, Andrew Peacock.

Thoughts: This was the spring of Jeremy Ross. He will make the roster at least as the team’s returner but probably showed enough during the spring to at least enter training camp with a good shot at being the team’s third or fourth receiver. Another surprise was Broyles, who if he can stay healthy could end up making a contribution in the fall. He isn’t a roster lock yet, but will certainly get some opportunities. The competition for the third (or fourth) outside receiver will be one to watch in the fall.

Roster locks: Johnson, Tate, Ross (add Ross)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Johnson, Tate, Ross, Durham, Broyles, Jones, Fuller (practice squad). (Add Broyles to roster from PUP, move Fuller from roster to practice squad.)

TIGHT END

Projected starters: Eric Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew.

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Joseph Fauria, Jordan Thompson, Jacob Maxwell.

Thoughts: Moving Michael Williams to tackle all but assured Fauria a roster spot in the fall. It also means Detroit is probably going to carry only three tight ends on the roster unless either Thompson or Maxwell makes a massive move during training camp. The other thing benefiting Fauria is Ebron’s struggles with catching the ball at times.

Roster locks: Ebron, Pettigrew, Fauria. (Add Fauria)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Ebron, Pettigrew, Fauria. (Minus Williams)

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Projected starters: Riley Reiff (LT); LaAdrian Waddle (RT).

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Corey Hilliard, Cornelius Lucas, Michael Williams, J.B. Shugarts, Bryce Quigley.

Thoughts: This position seems fairly settled other than the No. 4 tackle spot. Reiff and Waddle aren’t going anywhere and Hilliard will likely push Waddle for a starting spot. As of now, Lucas has the inside shot on the fourth tackle position.

Roster locks: Reiff, Waddle (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Reiff, Waddle, Hilliard, Lucas.

GUARD

Projected starters: Rob Sims (LG); Larry Warford (RG).

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Rodney Austin, Travis Swanson, Alex Bullard, D.J. Morrell.

Thoughts: Warford is not going anywhere and Rodney Austin had a good enough spring that both he and Swanson might make the roster as swing backups that could end up as starters by 2015 to replace Sims and Dominic Raiola. As long as Sims is healthy, he’ll make this team and start as well. The interesting question might be a practice squad candidate out of this group.

Roster locks: Warford (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Warford, Sims, Austin, Bullard (practice squad)

CENTER

Projected starter: Dominic Raiola

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Swanson, Austin, Darren Keyton, Bullard.

Thoughts: Raiola is the starter here. Austin and Swanson will eventually compete for the starter’s role. Pretty cut and dry here.

Roster locks: Raiola, Swanson. (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Raiola, Swanson.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions finished the first day of their mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. While the most important thing for the Lions was no new significant injuries to speak of, there were some points that stood out throughout the session.

For the first time this spring, most of them will focus positively on the offense.
  • This was probably the most balanced open practice Detroit has had this offseason. The offense looked the smoothest it has been during May and June, including one 11-on-11 period when Matthew Stafford completed every pass he threw. For the past few weeks, the offensive players have said it would take time for the timing of the offensive routes to show through. For the first time this spring, it did during an open practice. There were points during last week’s OTA that it looked better, but the Lions had all of their main offensive pieces except for Golden Tate and Joique Bell this practice.
  • Johnson
    The play of the day was easily something Lions fans have seen over and over again throughout the past five seasons with the Lions. Stafford threw a 50-plus yard pass to Calvin Johnson that resulted in a touchdown during 11-on-11 drills. It was the perfectly thrown ball that has happened often between the two over the years. Johnson beat two defenders -- cornerback Bill Bentley and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus -- on the play.
  • Play of the Day, Part II: This wasn’t quite as impressive as the all-too-typical Johnson play, but Corey Fuller made a nice sideline grab on a pass from Dan Orlovsky. He had to jump to make the play and corralled the ball while apparently getting both feet down. It was a play a pro wide receiver would make, and Fuller has been spending most of the spring trying to prove he is that.
  • The player of the day was Johnson. The All-Pro wide receiver looked like his normal self for the first time all spring. He caught essentially everything that was thrown to him throughout the day, ran crisp routes and crushed pretty much all of the Lions defensive backs when he was matched up with them. He was a big part of why the offense looked better than it has all spring.
  • Jeremy Ross is going to get some playing time at receiver this fall. Sure, Tate was not at practice, but Ross took advantage of yet another opportunity and integrated himself into the offense once again. Lions coach Jim Caldwell also seemed pleased with Ross, who spent the offseason working specifically on pelvic movement, flexibility and cutting to improve his route-running. It seems to have paid dividends thus far. Ryan Broyles got some run with the first team as well.
  • Following on Ross’ emergence, the same could be said for running back Theo Riddick. The second-year pro out of Notre Dame received a good chunk of first-team reps. Some of those will go to Bell when he returns for training camp, but Riddick has an easy running style and appears to be much more confident than he did last season. He was used sparingly then, but sometimes in key situations. This season, he appears set up for an expanded role if he is prepared for it.
  • Not surprising, but Don Carey is the leader for the third safety spot. He filled in for Glover Quin when he sat out parts of team drills and is going to end up being an all-purpose defensive back for the Lions this season. He can play either safety spot and also drop down and play nickel as well. His versatility and special teams play was part of why the Lions signed him to an extension this offseason.
  • I’ll have more on this later this week, but Rodney Austin has spent more time working at center. He did some work there with the first unit on Tuesday and said after practice it is an area he spent a little bit more time on this offseason. He knows being able to play guard and center effectively is a key for securing a roster spot. Also lining up with the first group at times -- at guard -- was third-round pick Travis Swanson.
  • A rough day for Giorgio Tavecchio in the kicking battle. He missed a couple of field goals, including shanking one after hitting his foot on the ground before he made contact with the ball. After practice, he told me his performance Tuesday was "devastating."
  • Lions not participating in practice: Tate, Bell (knee), defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder). Cornerback Chris Houston (toe) was not in attendance. Neither was receiver T.J. Jones (undisclosed). Both, Caldwell said, were excused absences. Houston has not been around the team all spring after having toe surgery. Rob Sims, Dominic Raiola and Quin all also sat out various portions of practice. Talking to Raiola after practice, he seemed fine. Among those returning to practice are linebacker Kyle Van Noy, receiver Kris Durham and tight end Joseph Fauria.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – A season ago, Corey Fuller felt like he had to eat everything. Already fast -- he originally went to college for track -- he felt like he needed to become bigger to try and complement his speed.

So as he was learning on the field, he was stuffing his face off of it. Then came his season on the practice squad, where he spent the year observing Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson, absorbing everything they did from how they trained to how they played.

He needed all of that then so he could spend the offseason working on trying to fix what he did wrong as a rookie who didn’t play. He picked up on the routes, gained experience and, perhaps most importantly, got bigger by actually losing weight.

“I thought I had to be heavier,” Fuller said. “And I was just stuffing my mouth with any and everything. Then, during the season, I started losing a little bit of weight and now I’m eating healthier, eating the right foods.”

Fuller didn’t disclose his new diet, but he said he dropped about 12 pounds from training camp last season, and that he weighs 200 pounds, although he is listed on the official rookie minicamp roster at 196 pounds.

Either way, he believes the lost weight and added size will be the first thing that helps him go from a practice squad afterthought last season to someone perhaps on the 53-man roster come this fall. This won’t be a simple task, as there are a lot of wide receivers with potential that will be in camp starting Tuesday.

Two are locks to be on the roster: Johnson and Golden Tate. The rest is going to be a giant free-for-all for anywhere from three-to-five spots along with Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree, Jeremy Ross, Ryan Broyles, Naaman Roosevelt, Patrick Edwards and rookie TJ Jones.

That he showed up for rookie minicamp, something he did not need to do, might bode well for him early with the coaching staff. He was able to learn more as he also helped the rookies become acclimated to the NFL.

It clearly impressed at least the head coach.

“It kind of gives him a little bit of a head start in that regard,” Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said. “He was able to grind through it on the weekend and did a nice job. He was also kind of able to pave the way for some of the guys that hadn’t been, he’s been doing it for five weeks now.

“He’s been a good bell cow for us. He set the stage for us in that regard, but he was absolutely outstanding.”

Even though he has a small window into what to expect having been around for five weeks and participating over the weekend, he still isn’t completely sure where he fits into the new offense run by Joe Lombardi yet.

So far, they have just been lining all of the receivers up in various places to have a handle on where the skills of certain players might slide in the best at.

The routes, he said, are somewhat similar but run out of different spots on the field.

So all he really knows as he enters organized team activities this week is one thing: He has a shot.

“I just know I’m competing for that 53 spot,” Fuller said. “And whatever the coaches decide, they decide.”
The numbers are huge, mostly because the best receiver in the game is among them. When you look at the cap and cash numbers as a position for the Detroit Lions' wide receivers, it appears the team is spending an extreme amount at the position.

In some cases, the team was. But with Calvin Johnson on the roster and bringing in at least $8 million a year against the cap for every year since 2010, the numbers will look a little bit inflated. The question is not whether Johnson was worth the money -- he was and remains to be worth it -- but whether the complementary receivers were worth their cost.

[+] EnlargeCalvin Johnson
Joe Sargent/Getty ImagesCalvin Johnson has counted at least $8 million against the salary cap every year since 2010.
In looking at the wide receiver numbers since 2010, the team has been pretty consistent in how much it has allotted to the cap at the position, mostly because of the consistency of Johnson. Other than him, the players have fluctuated and some of Detroit’s misses on picks and free agents become accentuated.

So here is a look at Detroit’s cap situation with receivers over the past five seasons, including who is under contract for the 2014 season. Every other year is based on the players on the team at the end of the year.

Prior cap studies: Running back
2014
Total numbers: $20,916,227 (cap value); 32.61 percent (offensive cap percentage); 15.20 percent (total cap percentage); $19,139,409 (cash value).

By players:

  • Calvin Johnson: $13,058 million (cap value); 20.36 percent (offensive cap); 9.49 percent (total cap).
  • Golden Tate: $3.1 million (cap value); 4.83 percent (offensive cap); 2.25 percent (total cap).
  • Ryan Broyles: $1,003,227 (cap value); 1.56 percent (offensive cap); .73 percent (total cap).
  • Kris Durham: $645,000 (cap value); 1.01 percent (offensive cap); .47 percent (total cap).
  • Kevin Ogletree: $635,000 (cap value); .99 percent (offensive cap); .46 percent (total cap).
  • Jeremy Ross: $570,000 (cap value); .89 percent (offensive cap); .41 percent (total cap).
  • Naaman Roosevelt: $570,000 (cap value); .89 percent (offensive cap); .41 percent (total cap).
  • Patrick Edwards: $495,000 (cap value); .77 percent (offensive cap); .36 percent (total cap).
  • Cody Wilson: $420,000 (cap value); .65 percent (offensive cap); .31 percent (total cap).
  • Corey Fuller: $420,000 (cap value); .65 percent (offensive cap); .31 percent (total cap).
2013
Total numbers: $15,101,501 (cap value); 25.49 percent (offensive cap); 14.43 (total cap); $29,017,042 (cash value).

By players:

  • Johnson: $8,774 million (cap value); 14.81 percent (offensive cap); 8.38 percent (total cap).
  • Nate Burleson: $4,031,641 (cap value); 6.81 percent (offensive cap); 3.85 percent (total cap).
  • Broyles: $841,448 (cap value); 1.42 percent (offensive cap); .80 percent(total cap).
  • Durham: $555,000 (cap value); .94 percent (offensive cap); .53 percent (total cap).
  • Ogletree: $546,765 (cap value); .92 percent (offensive cap); .52 percent (total cap).
  • Ross: $310,588 (cap value); .52 percent (offensive cap); .30 percent (total cap).
  • Micheal Spurlock: $42,059 (cap value); .07 percent (offensive cap); .04 percent (total cap). *only his second stint with Detroit in 2013.
2012
Total numbers: $17,887,996 (cap value); 28.71 percent (offensive cap); 14.83 percent (total cap); $29,915,532 (cash value).

By players:

  • Johnson: $11,537,286 (cap value); 18.52 percent (offensive cap); 9.57 percent (total cap).
  • Burleson: $2,861,446 (cap value); 4.59 percent (offensive cap); 2.37 percent (total cap).
  • Titus Young: $1,041,624 (cap value); 1.67 percent (offensive cap); .86 percent (total cap).
  • Mike Thomas: $767,647 (cap value); 1.23 percent (offensive cap); .64 percent (total cap).
  • Broyles: $688,818 (cap value); 1.07 percent (offensive cap); .55 percent (total cap).
  • Kassim Osgood: $540,000 (cap value); .87 percent (offensive cap); .45 percent (total cap).
  • Brian Robiskie: $361,764 (cap value); .58 percent (offensive cap); .30 percent (total cap).
  • Durham: $109,411 (cap value); .18 percent (offensive cap); .09 percent (total cap).
2011
Total numbers: $19,433,849 (cap value); 30.71 percent (offensive cap); 16.61 percent (total cap); $18,872,324 (cash value).

By players:

  • Johnson: $13,956,946 (cap value); 22.05 percent (offensive cap); 11.93 percent (total cap).
  • Burleson: $2,755,072 (cap value); 4.35 percent (offensive cap); 2.35 percent (total cap).
  • Young: $829,331 (cap value); 1.31 percent (offensive cap); .71 percent (total cap).
  • Stefan Logan (listed as a receiver): $742,500 (cap value); 1.17 percent (offensive cap); .63 percent (total cap).
  • Maurice Stovall: $575,000 (cap value); .91 percent (offensive cap); .49 percent (total cap).
  • Rashied Davis: $575,000 (cap value); .91 percent (offensive cap); .49 percent (total cap).
2010
Total numbers: $20,589,676 (cap value); 28.24 percent (offensive cap); 18.03 percent (total cap); $23,163,235 (cash value).

By players:

  • Johnson: $11,136,108 (cap value); 15.28 (offensive cap); 9.75 (total cap).
  • Burleson: $5,325,000 (cap value); 7.30 percent (offensive cap); 4.66 percent (total cap).
  • Bryant Johnson: $3 million (cap value); 4.12 percent (offensive cap); 2.63 percent (total cap).
  • Derrick Williams: $585,333 (cap value); .80 percent (offensive cap); .51 percent (total cap).
  • Logan: $395,000 (cap value); .54 percent (offensive cap); .35 percent (total cap).
  • Brian Clark: $148,235 (cap value); .20 percent (offensive cap); .13 percent (total cap).
Over the past two weeks, we have taken a look at the past 10 first rounds from the Detroit Lions -- all of the drafts that had Martin Mayhew as either the team's general manager or assistant general manager.

This week, we're looking specifically at the Lions' drafts since 2009, when Mayhew has been in charge. This will be a look at the entire class, not just the first-round picks, which are the ones paid the most attention.

We’ll take a peek at each of the drafts, what worked, what didn’t and one pick that in retrospect we would change with Detroit. Hopefully, this can also give a window into the way Mayhew drafts and some of the decisions he has made in the past that could help influence the 2014 draft and beyond.

Past years: 2009; 2010; 2011; 2012

Complete draft (pick number in parentheses): Round 1 – Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU (5); Round 2 – Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State (36); Round 3 – Larry Warford, G, Kentucky (65); Round 4 – Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina (132); Round 5 – Sam Martin, P, Appalachian State (165); Round 6 – Corey Fuller, WR, Virginia Tech (171); Round 6 – Theo Riddick, RB, Notre Dame (199); Round 7 – Michael Williams, TE, Alabama (211); Round 7 – Brandon Hepburn, ILB, Florida A&M (245)

Picks left on the 2014 roster: 9 (Ansah, Slay, Warford, Taylor, Martin, Fuller, Riddick, Williams, Hepburn)

Picks left in the NFL at the end of the 2013 season: 9 (Ansah, Slay, Warford, Taylor, Martin, Fuller, Riddick, Williams, Hepburn)

[+] EnlargeLarry Warford
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsLarry Warford didn't miss an offensive snap for the Lions as a rookie in 2013.
Best pick: Warford. This is actually a tough selection because Detroit had a lot of good picks and a bunch of immediate starters and contributors out of this draft. Warford, though, ranks above the rest of the class. He played every snap last season as Detroit’s right guard and already has established himself as a potential starter for the next decade for the Lions. He almost seamlessly fit in next to Dominic Raiola and worked well with his fellow rookie, LaAdrian Waddle, who ended up as the team’s starting right tackle by the middle of the season.

That Ansah, who led rookies in sacks with eight, and Martin, who was one of the league’s better young punters, didn’t fit this spot tells you all you need to know about what was by far Mayhew’s best draft.

Worst pick: None, as of now. If there was an absolute pick here, it would probably be Williams. That wouldn’t be fair to him, though, as he spent the season on injured reserve with a busted-up hand. But he was a seventh-round selection who wasn’t expected to contribute much anyway in his rookie season and he could end up being a good tight end for Detroit down the road. They really didn’t make any major mistakes with this draft.

Best value pick: Martin. This was a somewhat questionable pick when the Lions made it in the fifth round, especially because teams usually don’t spend draft picks on kickers and punters. But Martin won the job -- he was always going to win the job with that investment -- and had a strong rookie season. Considering the way kickers and punters last in the league, he could outlast every person currently in the organization with his tenure with the club if he continues to have good seasons. That's why he is the best value selection. If he continues to work out, Detroit will not have to worry about a punter for the next 12-15 years. That's not bad value at all.

One pick I’d change (other than the worst one): This is kind of a nitpick, because this was a really good draft for the Lions, but in the sixth round, Detroit should have taken Andre Ellington over Corey Fuller -- especially because the team took Theo Riddick a few picks after Ellington went to Arizona. The Lions could have picked up that third/fourth running back need with a potential difference-maker in the backfield who could learn behind Reggie Bush for a year or two before potentially replacing him. But Fuller was a developmental receiver project who may still pan out with his speed.

Draft grade overall: A. This was easily Detroit’s best draft under Mayhew and essentially every major pick already has turned into a contributor. Even if Hepburn, Fuller and Williams don't end up working out, the Lions got six guys who played immediately and three starters out of the draft. They'd take that every year.
Recruiting has been deemed a completely inexact proposition seemingly forever. Guys who are highly rated don’t pan out. Guys who were walk-ons turn into NFL players and, sometimes, stars.

So as teams across the country sign players Wednesday, here’s a look back at where the Detroit Lions were ranked when they were high school seniors. For rankings from 2006 forward, the rankings used are ESPN’s rankings. From 2002 to 2006, we used the Rivals.com rankings.

In some cases, no rankings were available. If something is not denoted as coming from another site, it is ESPN’s ranking from that year.

What you’ll see is most of Detroit’s players were not highly-rated players coming out of high school. Some had no ranking at all. Just goes to show how blue chip recruits in high school don’t always turn into top-level college or NFL players.

This post covers the offense. The next post will cover the defense and specialists. Running backs:
    Bush
    Bush
  • Reggie Bush (2003): No. 1 running back per Rivals.com; No. 2 overall player per Rivals.com. Signed with USC.
  • Joique Bell (2005): Not listed anywhere among the Rivals rankings for the 2005 class. Signed with Wayne State.
  • Theo Riddick (2009): No. 48 athlete; No. 65 in his region (the Northeast). Signed with Notre Dame.
  • Mikel Leshoure (2008): Not ranked at all by the ESPN rankings. No. 28 running back by Rivals.com. Signed with Illinois.
  • Montell Owens (2002): No information on his recruitment was available. Signed with Maine.
  • Steven Miller (2009): Not rated in 2009 out of high school when he signed with Nassau Community College. Not rated in 2011 when he signed with Appalachian State.
Wide Receivers:
    Johnson
  • Calvin Johnson (2004): No. 6 wide receiver by Rivals.com and No. 37 overall player. (If you’re curious, Early Doucet was the No. 1 receiver in his class according to Rivals.) Signed with Georgia Tech.
  • Nate Burleson (2000): Can’t find a ranking for Burleson from 2000, but here’s an interesting story about his recruitment from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Signed with Nevada.
  • Kris Durham (2006): No. 66 receiver. No. 200 player in his region. Signed with Georgia.
  • Kevin Ogletree (2005): No. 59 wide receiver according to Rivals.com. Signed with Virginia.
  • Jeremy Ross (2006): No. 174 wide receiver. Signed with Cal.
  • Micheal Spurlock (2001): Nothing available from a rankings or story perspective. Signed with Mississippi.
  • Ryan Broyles (2007): Rated as the No. 58 wide receiver in his class. Signed with Oklahoma.
  • Cody Wilson (2009): Not rated in 2009. Signed with Central Michigan.
  • Corey Fuller (2008): Not rated by either service. Signed with Kansas on a track scholarship. Transferred to Virginia Tech for football. Was an indoor All-American in track in high school.
  • Patrick Edwards (2007): Not rated by either service. Was a walk-on at Houston.
Tight ends:
    Pettigrew
    Pettigrew
  • Brandon Pettigrew (2004): Was not ranked by Rivals.com with a number. A two-star recruit by Rivals. Signed with Oklahoma State.
  • Joseph Fauria (2008): No. 15 tight end. Signed with Notre Dame (eventually transferred to UCLA).
  • Michael Williams (2008): No. 26 tight end and No. 20 player in Alabama. Signed with Alabama.
  • Matt Veldman (2007): Not rated by ESPN or by Rivals. Signed with North Dakota State.
  • Dorin Dickerson (2006): No. 11 wide receiver in his class and No. 74 prospect overall.
Offensive linemen:
    Raiola
  • Dominic Raiola (1997): No available recruiting rankings, but he was the first player from Hawaii to accept a scholarship to Nebraska, according to the Nebraska website.
  • Rob Sims (2002): No. 20 offensive guard according to Rivals.com. Signed with Ohio State.
  • Riley Reiff (2008): Rated as the No. 84 defensive end. Signed with Iowa.
  • Larry Warford (2009): Rated as the No. 51 offensive guard. Signed with Kentucky.
  • Corey Hilliard (2003): Not rated by number as an offensive tackle in his class by Rivals.com. Rated as a two-star recruit. Signed with Oklahoma State.
  • Jason Fox (2006): Rated as the No. 22 tight end. Signed with Miami (Fla.).
  • Leroy Harris (2002): Rated as the No. 42 defensive tackle by Rivals.com. Signed with N.C. State.
  • Rodney Austin (2007): Not rated by ESPN.com or Rivals in his class. Signed with Elon.
  • Dylan Gandy (2000): Not rated by any service I could find, but here’s an interesting story from when he was drafted with some backstory of how he ended up at Texas Tech.
  • LaAdrian Waddle (2009): Rated as the No. 19 offensive tackle in his class and the No. 43 player in the Midlands. Signed with Texas Tech.
He was high on the Detroit Lions' 2013 NFL draft from the start, grading the team as a B in the days following the draft.

Now, with a season of evidence, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had an even higher opinion of how the Lions did.

He gave them an A.

Kiper particularly praised what we have also praised in this space all season long -- general manager Martin Mayhew and senior personnel executive Brian Xanders' ability to find talent in the later rounds of the draft and also after the draft with undrafted free agents.

It was in the undrafted free agent pool, where the Lions picked up starting right tackle LaAdrian Waddle and starting tight end Joseph Fauria, that really made Detroit's rookie class even more impressive.

To read Kiper's whole evaluation, click the link here .

To give a quick recap, here's a look at Detroit's rookies and where they fit in with Detroit last year.
  • First round -- Ziggy Ansah, DE: Starter. Led rookies in sacks with eight.
  • Second round -- Darius Slay, CB: Contributor. Showed promise toward the end of the season.
  • Third round -- Larry Warford, RG: Started every game this season. Was one of the top guards in the league and perhaps the steal of the draft.
  • Fourth round -- Devin Taylor, DE: Contributor. Played more and also had more consistency toward the end of the season.
  • Fifth round -- Sam Martin, P: Starter. Was in the top 10 for punters for most of the year. Could be with the team longer than anyone else in the locker room right now.
  • Sixth round -- Corey Fuller, WR: Practice squad all year.
  • Sixth round -- Theo Riddick, HB: Mostly a special-teams player, but turned into a reliable contributor there throughout the season.
  • Seventh round -- Michael Williams, TE: On injured reserve all season.
  • Seventh round -- Brandon Hepburn, LB: Practice squad all year.
  • Undrafted -- LaAdrian Waddle, RT: Starter by midseason. Tackle of the future for Detroit.
  • Undrafted -- Joseph Fauria, TE: Contributor/starter. Became a legitimate red zone threat and should see a bigger role in 2014.

Lions sign 10 to futures contracts

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
12:30
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Not surprising, but the Detroit Lions have signed 10 players to futures contracts, including the majority of its practice squad.

Wide receivers Corey Fuller, Carlin Isles, Patrick Edwards and Cody Wilson all received deals, along with running back Steven Miller and defensive tackles Xavier Proctor and Jimmy Saddler-McQueen.

All were on the practice squad this season.

The Lions also signed two kickers, Giorgio Tavecchio and John Potter, and linebacker Jon Morgan.

Morgan was with the Lions in training camp before being released. Tavecchio was brought in during the massive kicker tryout late in the season when David Akers was struggling and Potter spent some time with the Redskins this season.

Akers, by the way, is an unrestricted free agent.

QOTW: New Year's resolutions

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
1:00
PM ET
Question of the Week is a feature where we ask different Detroit Lions the same question on various topics -- some funny, some issue-based, some football-related and some completely off the wall. To suggest a potential question for QOTW, email michael.rothstein@espn.com or make the suggestion on Twitter @mikerothstein

Previous Questions of the Week: Welcome to the NFL moment; Job if no football; Pregame meal; Favorite Holiday; Historical figure; Free year's supply of...; Why you wear your number; Best Halloween costume; TV character; Super Hero alter ego; Cake...or Steak; Entrance music; Nicknamed jerseys

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- It is almost a new year, both in the world of the NFL and on the actual calendar as 2013 flips to 2014 in less than a week.

And with the Detroit Lions' season coming to a conclusion Sunday at Minnesota, we caught up with some of the Lions about their New Year’s resolutions heading into 2014 -- and in some cases, next season, for the final Question of the Week for the year.

OL Rodney Austin: Lose 15 pounds. I want to come back in the best shape of my entire life and I’m just really trying to get back to that feeling I had my last full season in college. My senior year got cut short. The year before, I was an All-American and going into that year, I was in probably the best shape I’ve ever seen myself in and a lot of people were taking notice of it.

Reporter: What were you then?

Austin: I was 310. Played the whole year right around 310 and ballin’, you know. So, just trying to get back down to that. Cut down a little weight, get my wind up a little more, work on my conditioning a lot. Maybe take a little bit less of a break this offseason and get back into it. I want to come back and leave no doubt I’m ready to be on an NFL field next season.


CB Rashean Mathis: To be a better father. To be a better husband. To be a better man of God than I was. And if I’m a better man of God, everything else, locker room intangibles with the guys, better husband, better dad, all of that will take care of itself if I root myself the way I need to be rooted.


WR Kris Durham: Pray more and give more. Been blessed. I just feel like that's what I need to do with my life. That’s something I really need to do.


DE Devin Taylor: Not now. It’s six days. There’s usually a couple things that I’ll probably think of that I want to do for the next year but right now I haven’t thought of anything specific.


Returner Jeremy Ross: I don’t really have a New Year’s resolution. One day doesn’t define my whole life and who I decide to be or who I am. I just continue to grow through the year or throughout the year. I don’t choose one day throughout the year to make plans or to be like, ‘Hey, I’m going to change this one whole thing,’ because if you haven’t changed it already, a new year is not going to do it for you. So I don’t do the whole New Year’s resolution thing.


WR Corey Fuller: I don’t have one. I don’t think I should wait for New Year’s to come up with a resolution because people who really do that are only doing that because it’s New Year’s and they only stick with it for a couple of weeks.


LB Ashlee Palmer: To be the best father in the world. Best father in the world. Taking care of my kids. That’s a New Year’s resolution, man.


RB Theo Riddick: I don’t really have one, man. Just to be alive for another year, I guess. Can’t take that for granted.
The Detroit Lions have assembled their full practice squad, and all eight members are players the team waived Saturday.

They include three former draft choices: receiver Corey Fuller, cornerback Chris Greenwood and linebacker Brandon Hepburn. Also among the group: running back/kick returner Steven Miller, fullback Shaun Chapas, offensive lineman Rodney Austin, and defensive tackles Jimmy Saddler-McQueen and Xavier Proctor.

The two most prized possessions of that group are probably Greenwood and Miller.

The Lions couldn't justify a roster spot for Greenwood, who missed all of last season and a good portion of training camp this summer because of injuries, but he is as physically gifted as any defensive back on their roster. Miller, meanwhile, made a big push to win the returner job that presumably has gone to veteran newcomer Micheal Spurlock.

Note: The Lions claimed former Washington Redskins safety DeJon Gomes on waivers, according to multiple reports. That means a corresponding move will have to take place at some point Sunday to create a spot on the roster.

Detroit Lions cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
6:28
PM ET
Most significant move: There were no surprises for the Detroit Lions and, really, there were few big decisions. We noted earlier that the team decided to preserve a roster spot for No. 3 quarterback Kellen Moore, so the most significant move they did make was placing rookie tight end Michael Williams on injured reserve. The Lions had substantial plans for Williams this season as the third tight end in the jumbo package that lineman Riley Reiff filled last season. They also hoped to develop his receiving skills as veterans Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler enter contract years. Williams had surgery last week to repair a hand injury, and though coach Jim Schwartz said the team had no long-term injuries, Williams is in fact lost for the season. (NFL teams can't start placing players on short-term injured reserve until next week.) As a result, rookie Joseph Fauria -- a much better receiver but less of a blocker than Williams -- is on the 53-man roster with Pettigrew and Scheffler.

The dominoes: The Lions apparently chose veteran Michael Spurlock as their kick returner, necessitating the release of rookie Steven Miller, who could return on the practice squad. Spurlock is also a receiver, and for the now he is one of six on the roster, presumably because of Ryan Broyles' sore knees. The release of veteran Matt Willis means Kris Durham is the sixth receiver. You wonder if the Lions would change directions soon in that regard. The Lions sifted through their big group of veteran defensive backups by tapping Rashean Mathis as a swing cornerback/safety and Rocky McIntosh as a backup linebacker while releasing the rest. John Wendling and Don Carey are the backup safeties for now.

What's next: According to multiple reports, the Lions will place running back Montell Owens on short-term injured reserve. That can't happen until next week, so for now he is part of the 53-man roster. He must miss at least six weeks of the regular season. You would think the Lions will bring back a number of the players they cut Saturday for their practice squad, and it's worth remembering that they are No. 5 in priority for NFL waiver claims. Sunday could be a busy day.

List of players cut: WR: Corey Fuller, Matt Willis. RB: Steven Miller, Shaun Chapas. OL: Rodney Austin, Kevin Haslam, Darren Keyton, Jake Scott. DL: Andre Fluellen, Ogemdi Nwagbuo, Xavier Proctor, Jimmy Sadler-McQueen. LB: Brandon Hepburn, Jon Morgan (waived/injured) Chris White. CB: Ron Bartell, Chris Greenwood. S: Amari Spievey, Tyrell Johnson, Martavius Neloms (waived/injured) P: Blake Clingan.

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