According to the this article on draft efficiency from forbes.com undrafted players comprise the third largest percentage of eventual starters (after the first and second round draft picks) in the NFL. Of course while each franchise normally gets only a single draft pick in each round teams often sign 15 or more undrafted free agents for training camp. An undrafted player is certainly not more likely than a fourth or firth round draft pick to make the Lions roster. The Lions have brought in an extremely large number of undrafted free agents this season, the first under General Manager Bob Quinn, and I thought it might be interesting for Lions fans to get a little bit of background information on some of them. This should serve to get you ahead of the curve for the first preseason game next month. Hopefully I can make the second half of the first game just a little more interesting for you to watch.
Deonte Gibson: Defensive End, Northwestern
6’1″, 261lbs, 4.68s 40 yard dash, 33.3″ arms, 20 bench reps. Gibson had 9 sacks as a senior, and can really bring heat off the edge. Even on plays where he was not the one who eventually got the sack, Gibson often showed at the college level that he had the ability to disrupt the quarterback’s rhythm, forcing him to move within the pocket, or scramble to avoid pressure rather than simply being led around the edge as many speedy college level pass rushers are. Gibson also showed the ability to wrap when he tackles, a lost art in the NFL, and did not cheat on option plays, fulfilling his responsibilities well. He arrives at the ball carrier with a certain abrupt aggressiveness that is enjoyable to watch, and does not look out of place when working in the open field, sniffing out screen plays and finishing them before they can really start.
The Keys to Deonte Gibson Making the Roster
First and foremost, the key to making the Lions roster for Deonte Gibson is finding a special teams fit. With his combination of size and speed Gibson has the potential to fill many roles on special teams, potentially competing for roles traditionally left to tight ends and linebackers as well as those that defensive ends are normally utilized in. His tackling ability will serve him well in this regard and make him a candidate to see a lot of time in preseason punt and kickoff coverage units. The reason that I chose to do Gibson’s profile first is that I think he has a really good chance to surprise people and make the Lions roster. With the lack of entrenched competition at the bottom of the Lions depth chart at the position I think all bets are off for those last two roster spots.
Outside of the entrenched starters I think Deonte Gibson has as good an opportunity to make this team as anyone in his position group. Wallace Gilberry is the front runner to be the third player in the defensive end rotation, but not having been paid a significant bonus and only being on a one year contract even he has no guarantees when it comes to a roster spot. Behind the veteran Gilberry, who began his career in exactly the same position that Gibson finds himself in right now, Gibson is joined by my favorite sixth round draft pick Anthony Zettel, as well as fellow undrafted free agents James Deloach and Louis Palmer. Those four players are competing for one, or if a player proved himself useful enough on special teams, perhaps two roster spots. My guess is that Gibson finds himself at the bottom of the defensive end depth chart, or on the practice squad hoping for a to get back in the the league later in the year. I really think he is going to surprise some people.
Nothing is handed to anyone in the NFL and the path to stardom for an undrafted player is seldom easy or short. The key to any player making a roster outside the first and second round is whether or not they can get noticed on special teams. If the first preseason game rolls around and you don’t see a kid getting special teams reps, well……. that’s likely telling you everything you need to know about their chances to make the team. Enjoy the second half of the game. Keep on rocking in the free world kids.