Teams generally build out the bottom of their roster with late-round draft picks, low-priced free agents, and undrafted free agents (UDFAs) immediately following the draft. The Detroit Lions are no different and have had free agents make the final roster seemingly every season.
The 2020 roster is built a bit differently than in previous years, but there are still a couple of roster spots open enough that one of their undrafted players might find his way onto the final 53. For the first time in a decade of covering the draft, there weren’t any players that caused any legitimate surprise that they went undrafted, but that doesn’t mean that one or two of these guys can’t fight their way into a role.
Arryn Siposs, P, Auburn
An Australian punter who joined Auburn’s squad after playing for the Australian Football League, the Lions staff liked the 27-year-old rookie enough to sign him as a UDFA and release one of their camp legs.
Siposs is more of a controlled punter than a big leg, as he showed with some of his work prior to coming to the United States. His college career, however, was pretty mediocre. His 38.9 net punting yards last season would have ranked second to last in the NFL for 2019. Not much to say about a camp leg, the Lions remain unsettled at punter after, well, punting on the position in the draft after all of the stronger options were all either drafted or signed already.
Siposs will battle in camp with 2018 UDFA Jack Fox, another directional kicker who had a slightly better 40.1 net punting yards his final season, but had less than 38 in both of the previous seasons. Considering who they have, it looks like the Lions are going more control than power.
Bobby Price, DB, Norfolk State
An athletic phenom, Price is a big hitter that the Lions showed intense interest in at his pro day. With 133 solo tackles and 229 total over four season, Price has been reasonably productive for the Spartans. Coming down with 30 pass deflections and seven interceptions over that span is also impressive, but the level of competition at Norfolk State is not exactly known for being impressive.
He also happens to be facing one of the deepest position groups on the Lions roster. It’s likely a practice squad spot for Price even if he impresses, as it’s nearly impossible to realistically fit him onto the final roster.
Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington
As PFF’s top rated tight end, this is the signing that has everyone’s hearts all aflutter. As one of the worst draft classes in a decade at tight end, it’s not a huge honor to rate at the top of that group, but having watched the position as closely as always anyway (it’s my favorite group to evaluate), I came away fairly unimpressed with his game.
Bryant is small (nearly the same size as fullback Nick Bawden) and his speed is only okay (Bawden is also faster), amounting to a fairly mediocre athletic profile.
But how’s his game? He can’t have graded out so well by PFF if he were terrible! He’s fine as a receiver, nothing flashy or dynamic, but he is relatively reliable. He’s similar to how Isaac Nauta didn’t really screw up often as a pass catcher, and while he’s not a great route runner, he’s not as poor at it as Nauta.
Like Nauta, Bryant was a willing blocker at times but nothing really special that would suggest a significant role in the NFL in that area. Bryant most likely went undrafted due to his size, middling athletic profile, and h-back tape. This isn’t a guy you’d trust to play inline much, and he’s not dynamic enough to put in the slot, making a possible challenge for Nick Bawden his most likely shot on the roster. With how thin the Lions are at tight end, this is probably the only UDFA with an obvious road to the roster that doesn’t involve someone else getting injured.
Jalen Elliott, S, Notre Dame
Like Bobby Price, Elliott was a guy the Lions had interest in early on, so they were able to add at least two of the guys they were in on from day one.
From an athletic standpoint, Elliott would break from their tendencies of only taking fast safeties, as he ran a terrible 4.8 at the NFL Combine, but Elliott’s athletic profile is unique in that he did fairly well in all of the other drills. There aren’t a lot of guys who find success with a profile like that, but it’s not so unheard of.
Averaging around 30 tackles over each of the last three seasons, Price is consistent enough in his play to find a special teams role or work as a rushing down safety in spell sets if Tracy Walker or Will Harris need to catch their breath.
Like Price, it’s a very tough road to crack this roster, but if the team followed him from the start and knew they’d bring him in, they probably have some kind of idea what role he might have if he can show out in camp and preseason.
Jeremiah Dinson, DB, Auburn
Another jobber who put up decent stats as a safety, Dinson posted a similarly consistent career at Auburn that Jalen Elliott did at Notre Dame. Also like Elliott, Dinson ran a terrible 40-yard dash, but unlike Elliott, he didn’t make up for his poor number in any area. Dinson rated well below average in every single metric, including both height and weight.
The Lions paid him a fair amount to come to camp, but that has not been shown to guarantee much in terms of a roster role over the past few seasons (see: Ryan Pope), and like the other UDFA, he’s trying to find a way onto the Lions most crowded roster position. As a very solid form tackler, Dinson’s probable projection if he does make the squad is as a special teamer.
Luke Sellers, FB, South Dakota State
The second true fullback and fourth possible H-back on the roster, Sellers enters a fairly wide open competition for a spot on the Lions roster. A film rat who who blocked for a Jackrabbits team known for rushing the football, Sellers is going to face a very tough road to the Lions roster. He’ll be facing off against Nick Bawden, a former Lions draftee who blocked for two 2,000-yard rushers in college and has been an NFL starter, Isaac Nauta, who was drafted last season and already has NFL game experience, and Hunter Bryant, one of the more prized UDFA of the offseason.
It’s not an easy task, but none of the aforementioned three are locked into a role. A thickly-built dude who likes to get his hands dirty, Sellers, at worst, is going to make coaches in camp happy during blocking drills.
Steven Wirtel, LS, Iowa State
The most athletic long snapper in this class, Steven Wirtel is, indeed, a long snapper. That means he’s a dude who snaps the ball a bit farther than a normal center does. I could talk here about how good of an athlete he is, but his scouting report says the same, and that’s not adding anything new.
He’s considered to have average snap speed according to Lance Zierlein. Facing off against Don Muhlbach is no small matter, but whether fans want to admit it or not, Muhlbach has been trending downwards for the past few years and one of these days he’s going to lose a camp battle. Father time remains undefeated, but when you’re long snapping, all you have to do is keep doing that better than the next guy until you retire.