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 fifth 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.
Adam Fuehne: Tight End, Southern Illinois
6’7″, 258lbs, 5.06 40 yard dash. Adam Fuehne is going to look very familiar on the football field to a lot of Lions fans. Honestly he might as well just be Joseph Fauria back in town for training camp. He is a very tall, slender tight end who is a willing blocker that uses his length and height to all but swallow defensive backs on bubble screens, and has hands that were meant to catch footballs. He bends his knees when he blocks, getting lower than you could reasonably expect a person that tall to get, and pushes with a surprising amount of power when asked to block linemen. He uses his frame to shed the ball in traffic, adjusts to errant throws well, and shows on tape that he is more than willing to take a big hit to get a key first down. His short area quickness is more than adequate with his 20 yard shuttle at his pro day having been faster than any recorded by a tight end at the combine, and it shows in his blocking. His ability to move sideways makes me think that if he’d been 30 lbs heavier, this guy could have been a well regarded tackle prospect.
The Keys to Adam Fuehne Making the Roster
First and foremost Fuehne needs to show that despite his complete lack of top end speed, he can perform on special teams. Adam Fuehne is not likely to see a lot of meaningful action on offense during the season unless the team is willing to burn a roster spot on what would likely be a red zone specialist tight end, or there continue to be injuries in the tight end group. He needs to get eyes on him every time there’s a punt. There is nothing about his game that screams special teams demon though as those players, while often having athletic deficiencies, are seldom the least athletic members of their position groups. To be frank I don’t love the kid’s chances to make the team. What I do love is his chance to make the second half of preseason games one heck of an entertaining time for Lions fans.
The key to Adam Fuehne’s chances of making the team may lie in the recovery of Brandon Pettigrew from injury. While not the tough and physical blocker that Pettigrew is, Fuehne does have some really refined blocking technique for a college tight end. Were a spot open for a blocking and red zone specialist on the roster there is a possibility that he very well may be the man to fit the role. I am guessing that the Southern Illinois strength coaches were not on the same level as the Lions’ and he will come in to camp the best version of himself; he needs to be bigger without losing what athleticism he does have in order for there to be any chance of him making the team.
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. I’m found as @a5hcrack on twitter, and on /r/detroitlions.