One of the more productive off-seasons that a lot of people haven’t talked about is the one had by the Detroit Lions. They followed up a sneaky free agency period that landed them Reggie Bush and Glover Quin with an NFL draft that catered to most of their needs. The big question ahead is did they hit on enough of them to turn around that 4-12 record from a frustrating 2012?
Offense – Joseph Fauria
The tight end position is en vogue around the NFL and the Detroit Lions seem to have taken that to heart. Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler have complimented each other quite well the past couple years. The problem is neither has really developed into that star target who can take some heat off Calvin Johnson. They may get some competition in that quest from Joseph Fauria. The rookie out of UCLA is a monstrous 6’7″ with a proven ability to go high for passes, box out defenders and also deceive them with his unexpectedly quick feet. While not on par with the best tight ends in the draft, he became an excellent threat in the red zone as a senior, catching 12 touchdown passes. If he can add some muscle to his lean frame and improve on his blocking, there is no doubt he can threaten for playing time this season.
Defense – Darius Slay
Yes, he is a second round pick but there is no question Darius Slay fits the definition of a potentially hidden gem. Experts have serious misgivings about him. He has excellent speed, good size and long arms. Tackling is also not a problem for him. What is an issue is his health first and foremost. Rumors coming out of college were he had knee problems that might dog him down the road. This also might have impacted his ability to change directions and break on the football, allowing savvy route runners or fast receivers to beat him outright. Still, the skill is there to build on for a classic pro corner. Detroit needs one in the worst way. With their pass rush ability, Slay shouldn’t have to worry about prolonged coverage. That is great news for the Lions.
Special Teams – Theo Riddick
One of the bigger disappointments of last season was the fall of Stefan Logan. After an outstanding two seasons as the kick and punt returner in 2010 and 2011, the short and speedy kid fell off the map in 2012, amassing just 942 total yards and fumbling the ball six times. That is why the team cut him loose. In his place the Detroit Lions coaches figure to have an open audition across the roster. If so, fans should keep a close eye on sixth round pick Theo Riddick. The Notre Dame standout played wide receiver, running back and returner. Though not overly speedy, he has all the quickness necessary, along with the experience to become an excellent solution on the kick and punt squads. Making an impact there in turn might give him extra chances on offense down round, just like it did for the Irish.