Minutes after the conclusion of the NFL draft, a second spectacle begins. Every NFL team around the league begins signing hordes of undrafted free agents, bringing in lottery tickets that they hope to one day cash in on with a potential contributor.
The Detroit Lions brought in a haul of their own. While a majority of these players will be camp bodies with long odds to reach the final 53-man roster, some may be able to steal a spot if they manage to put together an impressive training camp and preseason.
One UDFA that truly does have a chance to make the roster is former North Carolina Tar Heels edge defender Malik Carney.
The defender was not a highly touted prospect coming out of Chapel Hill, but going undrafted did not seem in the cards. He was viewed by most as a Day 3 prospect, but managed to slip through the cracks and fall out of the draft entirely.
Carney was a three-year starter at UNC. He played 33 games over his last three years in college, racking up 164 combined tackles and 17 sacks since 2016. In his senior year he set career highs with 60 combined tackles and six sacks despite missing four games with a suspension.
The defender measures in at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds. He is undersized at his position, but what he does not have in size he makes up for with speed and burst. Carney posted a Relative Athletic Score of 5.03, and while that does not make him an athletic freak it does give the Lions some raw talent to work with.
He has more than just raw talent, though. Carney is actually pretty refined for a young player.
Carney’s most valuable trait is his hand usage. The defensive end is great at getting his hands inside the pads of his opposition and using them to disengage with blocks. He has strong arms and uses them to overpower and work his way around blockers.
The defensive end does not have the deepest pass rushing arsenal but he does have a devastation spin move. It is clearly his favorite move to use, and once he has used his hands to buy himself space he has the ability to pull off a strong but quick spin move to get by the blocker in front of him and get a free run into the backfield.
There is really not much Carney has beyond his excellent hand usage and spin move, though. While he has great burst, he is slow reacting to the snap at times, which costs any advantage he would get bursting off of the snap.
He also lacks any real bend. While he is great at spinning around offensive lineman he has a lot of trouble bending his way around them on the edge. This leads to him sometimes being unable to make the play once he gets into the backfield, as he is not limber enough to work his way through traffic and finish the play.
As great as he is with his hands and as devastating as his spin move his, he will need to be better to be a contributor at the next level. NFL offensive lineman are great with their hands as well, and it is not as easy to fool professionals with a spin move as it is to do in college.
His lack of size is an issue as well, especially in run defense. Carney has trouble holding the edge and gets shoved out of the way too easily.
Even when he does get himself in position to make the tackle, he has trouble sealing the deal. While Carney has great tackle form and is great at wrapping up, he often does not have the strength to bring the man down unless he gets help. Even when he does get the tackle, he usually allows the runner to stumble forward into a few extra yards.
He also needs to work of his play diagnoses. Carney falls for draw plays way too easily, often giving up the edge and allowing runners to fly by him. He is too excited to pass rush and entirely gives up the edge without any issue. The defensive end also falls for play fakes way too easily and places himself out of position.
He also is not very versatile. He is only really effective rushing out of two point stance, and does not do well with his hand in the dirt. Carney can also only really play as a jack at the next level, as he does not have the size to play on the interior or as a true 3-4 defensive end.
It will be a long shot. but if Carney can manage to earn himself a real role in the NFL as an undrafted free agent than that would be a huge victory for general manager Bob Quinn and Detroit’s front office.
There could be a role for him on this team as well. The Lions are currently lacking depth at jack linebacker. Devon Kennard is the current starter, but as great as he is against the run, he disappeared as a pass rusher late last season. New signing Trey Flowers will obviously take some snaps at jack, but the Lions will want to move him everywhere across the defensive front. Rookie Austin Bryant seems set to feature at defensive end rather than outside linebacker.
That leaves a role behind Kennard wide open for Carney to earn. If he has a great summer, then he could realistically earn himself a spot on an NFL roster desperate for more pass rushers.