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 in August. Hopefully I can make the second half of the first game just a little more interesting for you to watch.
Quinshad Davis: Wide Receiver, North Carolina
6’3″ 218lbs, 4.69s 40, 17 bench reps. Quinshad Davis has the prototype NFL possession receiver body, and before breaking his right tibia in the last offensive play of UNC’s 2014 season was widely thought to be entering the NFL draft as a junior, he was even listed in an NFL.com article by Chad Reuter as an honorable mention just outside the top 15 senior draft prospects. Before entering his senior season, he had already eclipsed Hackeem Nicks’ school record for touchdowns, during his senior season he added the record for receptions, and finished second in yardage all time in North Carolina Tar Heel history. Watching his tape, Quinshad Davis does a lot of things that you really like, so why was Quinshad Davis not drafted? He has no burst. His long speed is fine, but he is not an explosive athlete. Rather than starting and stopping on a dime, Davis does so on a Canadian $2 coin.
The Keys to Quinshad Davis Making the Roster
Quinshad Davis seems unlikely to make a special teams impact. That is a definite hurdle between him and a roster spot. He was a starter on offense for his entire college career, which means he has little experience actually playing special teams, and frankly lacks the fast twitch athleticism to make a quick transition likely. Using one of my previous subjects as a reference point, Davis is slower than the 261lb defensive end Deonte Gibson. The downfall on special teams for Davis will be that he is the opposite of one of Mike Mayock’s favored terms: Davis is faster than quick. His straight line speed is fine, but the starts, and cuts are extremely sluggish. Davis likely is not the right kind of athlete to make an impact reacting to a returner’s rapid cuts and jukes.
If Davis is going to make the team, it will be as the number three receiver. An unlikely prospect prior to the injury of Jeremy Kerley, but the recent veteran signings in the wide receiver corps have one thing in common, special teams experience. Davis is likely to be a very specialized player at the NFL level if he does make the team. He is very adept at using his body to make a catch. He adjusts to the ball with his entire body as opposed to just his hands, making poor throws look very catchable. He puts his body between defenders and the ball, extending his arms to make catches and preventing defensive backs from making plays on the ball. Davis is a difficult player to match up with physically, and knows how to use his size to his advantage. Given that he is bigger than almost every corner in the NFL, he will be able to utilize that both in the slot and on the outside. I would expect that Davis will be able to victimize the often smaller bodied third, fourth and fifth stringers he will see in the first preseason game. If he can transition that to the later games, he may just be able to carve himself a role as the Lions’ third receiver. It is far more likely that he finds himself on the practice squad, held in reserve for an injury that lets him see time on offense.
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.