Everyone loves a good underdog story in the NFL. While draft position is certainly correlated with NFL success, it is not the end-all, be-all. There are plenty of NFL players that have bucked the trend and beaten the odds of being drafted late. Every time that happens, it’s a fantastic story, and that’s why you see fans rooting for these guys so hard every year.
Last year’s darling was undrafted guard Beau Benzschawel. Many believed Benzschawel could have been a draft pick early in Day 3, but he fell out of the draft entirely. Hailed as Detroit’s best UDFA pickup, Benzschawel was hyped more than your typical undrafted prospect.
But after a quiet year and an active offseason at the guard position, what does the future hold for Beau Benzschawel? Let’s take a closer look.
Expectations heading into 2019
The Lions’ guard position was anything but settled heading into training camp. All we really knew was that Frank Ragnow was headed back to center, which pretty much cemented Graham Glasgow as the starting right guard. The left guard spot was open for competition between Kenny Wiggins, Joe Dahl, Oday Aboushi and anyone else who could make an early impression in camp.
However, it became clear early on that Benzschawel wasn’t a serious contender for a starting job. He was regularly repping with the third and fourth teams, and his spot on the 53-man roster was anything but guaranteed. Though Detroit’s depth was shaky at the guard position, it wasn’t clear if Benzschawel would be on the main roster or spend the season on the practice squad.
Actual role in 2019
2019 stats: 2 games (0 starts): 6 special teams snaps
PFF grade: N/A
Benzschawel would end up making the 53-man squad and stayed there for the entirety of the season. However, he wasn’t on the active gameday roster until Week 12 and didn’t see even a special teams snap until Week 16. He did not take a single snap on offense in his rookie season.
Outlook for 2020
Contract status: Signed through 2021
The Lions drafted both Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg in the 2020 NFL Draft, making Benzschawel’s future chances at earning a starting position look bleak, even though the Lions decided to part ways with Graham Glasgow.
And while Benzschawel could be decent depth at the guard position, his best chance as a contributor for the Lions may actually be at the center position. Though he has never played a game at center through high school or college, the Lions were slowly transitioning him to the position during all of 2019.
“At first it was pretty overwhelming, all these things rolling through your head,” Benzschawel told the Detroit News back in December. “But now I think I’m doing a better job of seeing defenses and just kind of making calls, being confident with the calls, getting everybody on the same page.”
With Glasgow gone, the Lions don’t have a clear backup center on the roster right now. Benzschawel’s biggest competition is Russell Bodine, a 2014 fourth-round pick who has started 74 games at the position but spent the 2019 regular season unemployed after failing to stick with the Patriots following an preseason trade.
Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell seems optimistic about Benzschawel’s future with the team.
“Beau has worked hard at it,” Bevell said of his position flexibility. “He definitely has made himself a viable option in obviously, more than one position now. I think that only helps yourself now for your future.”
Backup center may not be the most exciting of training camp battles, but keep an eye on Benzschawel vs. Bodine this August.