Remember Corey Fuller? He may have been easy to forget. The 2013 sixth-round draft pick was on the roster bubble entering OTAs this year, but after breaking his foot in one of those practices, Fuller was placed on the physically unable to perform list and stayed there through the start of the regular season. While Fuller remained sidelined, the Lions found value in other receivers, including undrafted rookie Jace Billingsley and veteran receiver Andre Roberts.
However, on Wednesday afternoon, Fuller returned to Lions practice—Brandon Pettigrew, who is also on the PUP list, did not return to action. According to NFL rules, players that enter the season on PUP list cannot begin practicing with the team until Week 7, but there’s a catch. Fuller is able to practice with the team now, but he doesn’t have to be added to the 53-man roster yet. Instead, once a player on the PUP list starts practicing, the team has a three-week window to decide whether to add the player to the roster or release him. In essence, the Lions have a free extra player at practice. For Pettigrew, the Lions have until the end of Week 11 to make a decision on his roster spot, unless they start practicing him sooner.
The question about Fuller, however, is will he be worth a roster spot once the Lions are forced to make a decision on him? There’s little harm in carrying him around as a free player at practice for the next three weeks. But does Fuller justify a roster spot when time is up?
The Lions’ top three receivers have been quite the trio through six games. Marvin Jones, Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin have combined for 1072 yards and eight touchdowns this season, and the Lions seem to rely on each of them equally. Without an injury, there is no way Fuller would break into the top-three receivers on the team.
Then there is Andre Roberts. Fans haven’t been too happy with Roberts’ performance as a kick returner, and aside from his one punt return touchdown, he hasn’t done much in that aspect of the game, either. He’s hardly a force on offense, catching just four passes thus far. Still, it’s hard to see how Fuller would replace Roberts. Fuller has little-to-no experience as a return specialist, and the Lions already have a better replacement option in TJ Jones, who is sitting on the practice squad.
That brings us to the final option for Fuller: the practice squad. Fuller is eligible for the practice squad, despite having two accrued seasons. The Lions already have two receivers on the practice squad in Billingsley and Jones, and they have even had a few other receivers make appearances on the 10-man squad. Because of the aforementioned special teams value, it’s hard to imagine Fuller taking Jones’ spot. As for Billingsley’s spot on the practice squad, it simply becomes a matter of personal preference at that point. Both players are quite young and both have shown off skills in the preseason. However, Billingsley is younger and perhaps more vulnerable to get picked off by another team.
In the end, it is hard to justify a spot anywhere on the Lions’ roster. That being said, there’s no harm in keeping him around for three weeks. An extra body at practice never hurts, and he can also stick around in case the Lions face a few injuries at the receiver position. But assuming the Lions stay healthy and efficient on offense, Fuller doesn’t appear to have a relevant space on the roster.