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4 UDFAs to watch during Detroit Lions minicamp

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Here are four undrafted free agents to watch during this week’s rookie minicamp.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Miami (Ohio) Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions rookie minicamp begins on Friday, May 12. The team will get its first look at their nine draft picks from the 2017 NFL Draft. However, Detroit will also get a chance to look at their undrafted free agent signings, a handful of rookie tryouts and reportedly Matt Asiata.

As of Monday morning, the Lions have yet to confirm any undrafted free agent signings, but through several reports from various sources, we know of at least a dozen players that will be attending the three-day workouts this upcoming weekend. Here are four of those players to keep an eye on.

RB Tion Green (Cincinnati)

Much was made about the Lions failing to draft a running back in this year’s draft. The Lions’ current group of five running backs don’t inspire much confidence, especially if they face injuries like they did last season. Zach Zenner managed to work his way up the depth chart as an undrafted free agent, so Tion Green has a realistic shot to compete.

Green was the leading back for the Bearcats in 2016, rushing for 743 yards at 4.7 YPC. At 6-foot, 230 pounds, Green could bring some size and strength as a between-the-tackles runner.

But perhaps the best thing going for Green is his eagerness to get involved in special teams. “I’m going to come in and try to be a franchise special-teams player,” Green told the Detroit Free Press. “That’s my main goal, do whatever I can to better the Detroit Lions."

DE Alex Barrett (San Diego State)

According to Dave Birkett, Alex Barrett signed a contract with a $30,000 base guarantee, the most among all Lions undrafted free agents. That could be a sign the Lions are very serious about bringing Barrett aboard. Considering the lack of depth at defensive tackle, that makes a lot of sense.

Barrett, like any small school prospect, has an uphill battle to make Detroit’s final 53-man roster, and he isn’t going to do it with his athleticism:

Part of what is weighing down his athletic scores is his undersized frame of 6-foot-3, 255 pounds.

That being said, Barrett was actually one of the most productive edge rushers in college football last year, especially as a pass rusher:

DE Jeremiah Valoaga (UNLV)

Per Birkett, Valoaga received the biggest signing bonus of any UDFA at $12,000. Valoaga visited the Lions prior to the draft, and Kent Lee Platte did a brief profile on him. Whereas Barrett is undersized and a bit slow, Valoaga brings a bounty of size and mass. From Platte’s article:

At 6-foot-6 and around 255 pounds, Valoaga has the size and length that Teryl Austin has coveted for his defensive linemen.

However, Valoaga also comes with some baggage. He missed an entire season at UNLV for academic reasons, then he was dismissed from the team at the end of 2016 for violating an undisclosed team rule.

Still, this was a player the Lions used one of their 30 pre-draft visits on, so there’s plenty of real interest here.

OT Storm Norton (Toledo)

The Lions’ love affair with the MAC continues. Norton is currently the only reported rookie offensive tackle the Lions invited to minicamp. Detroit is pretty thin at the position, so the towering 6-foot-8, 311 pound lineman could get a real shot at the final roster.

Norton was Toledo’s starting left tackle for the past two years, but, as pointed out by his NFL.com profile, that was mostly out of a two-point stance. In other words, Toledo’s offense was anything but pro style, and it will take some time for Norton to adjust to the NFL game.

That being said, he certainly has the athletic tools to make it:

Honorable mentions:

RB Bradley Mitchell (Mount Union) - Speedy, undersized back who could compete for a returner role, but his natural athleticism may not be as successful at the next level. Still, his highlight reel is highly entertaining.

WR Michael Rector (Stanford) - Received a significant $7,000 signing bonus and $3,000 guaranteed base salary (per Birkett). Speedy receiver (4.42 40-yard dash) with good NFL size (6-foot, 193 pounds), but has below average hands.

CB Josh Thornton (Southern Utah) - Seems unlikely to make the team due to how crowded the competition is, but he chose Detroit over Green Bay and earned a significant $10,000 signing bonus for it. In 2016, Thornton was second on his team with 11 passes defended and finished with three interceptions.