Detroit Lions 2016 Draft Overview: Special Teams

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In the Draft Overview series, I’ll be looking at five college players that might get drafted by Detroit position-by-position, breaking down the positives and negatives of each player and projecting if Detroit were to take them, which round they would be taken in. The position I am looking at today is:

Special Teams

Special Teams has a variety of options for Detroit. At kicker we have Matt Prater who has little to no chance of losing his job and he had a great year last season, ending with 22 for 24 on field goal attempts and 36 for 39 on extra point attempts. Sam Martin at punter also seems to be safe, but with him being on the final year of his rookie contract, Detroit could draft a punter as insurance. The long snapper position has been locked up by Don Muhlbach for many years, but he just re-signed a one year deal and is getting older. Detroit could look to replace him with a good draft pick this year. Kick and punt returns were handled by Golden Tate and Ameer Abdullah last year. This year, Detroit could look at a player in the draft to do that work and keep Tate and Abdullah healthy and ready. Let’s see who Detroit could take!

Draft Overview: Special Teams Options

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1. Nathan Theus – LS  (Georgia)

Out with the old and in with the new. Don Muhlbach has been a great long snapper for the Lions and with Detroit taking Theus in the draft, this wouldn’t mean the end for Muhlbach. I would expect him to finish this year and Theus takeover next season. Theus played all 13 games last year at the position, and he was a permanent co-captain on special teams. He received one of the four coaches leadership awards. His only action was getting a fumble recovery last year and getting one tackle.

Theus is a seventh round pick. Detroit shouldn’t take a long snapper any earlier since the need is very low with Muhlbach still on the roster.

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2. Morgan Burns – KR (Kansas State)

Burns has blazing fast speed. At his pro day, Burns ran a 4.38 40 yard dash. His field vision is impressive, finding the holes quickly and running right through them. He does play cornerback but doesn’t impress at that position, so he would get on the team strictly as a returner. He does have a good stiff-arm so he can fight for extra yards and possibly keep the play alive. His career at Kansas State ended with 51 returns for 1,572 yards and six touchdowns, five last season and one was off a blocked punt.

If Detroit wants to take a player strictly for returning kicks, late in the fifth round would be the best spot to snag Burns. His speed could interest others so if Detroit wants him, take the risk and have him late in the fifth round. Day one starter easily.

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3. Drew Kaser – P (Texas A&M)

Kaser has a powerful leg. In his past 24 games, 17 of them had punts of 53 yards or longer. In five games last year, he had punts over 64 yards. Has good hands. He does like showing off how strong his leg is and tends to get more touchbacks. His kicks don’t hang in the air as much as they should. If he sees pressure coming, he has the ability to get the ball out quickly. Kaser had 168 punts in four years, ending with 7,761 yards, averaging 46 yards per punt.

Kaser is a sixth round pick. If Detroit doesn’t feel like Sam Martin will return, taking Kaser late in the draft and resting for a year could be an option for the team.

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4. Deandre Reaves – KR/PR (Marshall)

Reaves is another option at returner for Detroit. He has quick feet and can make guys miss with a quick little step. He has good field awareness as well, knowing when to call for a fair catch and when to take a knee. When he gets the chance to return though, he finds holes well. Reaves ended with 113 total returns for 2,803 yards, and four touchdowns in his career.

Reaves is a seventh round pick.  He isn’t as fast as Burns, but he can play both kick and punt returner.

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5. Ka’imi Fairbairn – K (UCLA)

Fairbairn is an accurate kicker. From as far as the 40 yard line last year, Fairbairn made all 16 of those kicks. He had a kicking streak of 41 from 35 yards and in. He was the winner of the Lou Groza award is the PAC-12 all-time leading scorer. Fairbairn does feel pressure though as he missed three field goals in the fourth quarter. His kickoff hang time is average. Has made a 60 yard field goal. His touchback rate is at 70 percent which is good to hear. In four years, he missed a total of five extra points, going 209 for 214. Field goals he went 68 for 89, his longest being that 60 yard field goal.

Fairbairn is a seventh round pick. Detroit doesn’t need a kicker, but if they want to keep him on the roster and possibly use him as trade bait to a team that really needs special teams help, then that could work as well.

There you have it, another installment of the draft overview series. For the final article, I will be looking at running backs. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and leave me your thoughts in the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Brandon Knapp
Brandon Knapp is a senior at Central Michigan University, majoring in Journalism, minoring in Sports Management. He was born and raised in the city of Marysville, MI. He also writes for and covers the Michigan Wolverines Football team (his other love). Brandon also enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers.