Sunday, May 15, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 15th 2016 - Wide Receivers

The post draft wide receiver situation.

With the retirement of Calvin Johnson many pundits expected the Detroit Lions to draft a wide receiver in the 2016 draft, and early at that. Most mocks had that nearly as a mandate in the first couple rounds. The Lions however drafted nary a one in 10 pics. They did sign 3 undrafted players however, and before the draft, signed 6 free agents, giving them a total of 12 wide receivers (currently) on the roster. They will probably keep 5 on the roster after the final cuts, unless someone beats out the 3rd QB, or the 4th RB, or the 10th Dlineman, or the 7th LB, or the 10th DB, or whatever position gets trimmed back in order to keep that one WR dude they just can't let go. So yeah, it could be 6 or even 7 but it will most likely be five.

Lock #1: Golden Tate. Tate was signed in 2014 to a 5 year deal and has already proven his worth to the team and to the fans. He is as much of a sure thing to make the team as there is.

Lock #2: Marvin Jones. Jones was signed this year to a 5 year contract that is nearly identical to the one signed by Golden Tate two years ago even including the same $8 million signing bonus. For cap reasons alone he makes the team, but he is also expected to bookend the WR spots with Golden Tate to make up the beginning of what could become a very interesting offense for Mr Cooter.

Highly probable #1: Jeremy Kerley. The Lions picked up Kerley in free agency on a one year prove it type deal to bolster the WR corps. Neither his $50,000 signing bonus nor his $40,000 workout bonus will prevent him being cut if need be, but he only gets his bonuses of $260,000 (as in not likely to be earned bonuses) if he hits play time incentives, this would be on top of his one year salary of only $760,000. Yet this meager contract still makes him the 3rd highest paid WR on the Lions, that plus his age, familiarity with Quinn, and abilities makes him highly probable to make the final roster.

Most likely to take the 4th spot: TJ Jones. Jones has begun to show progress on his development and has 2 years remaining on his 6th round 4 year contract he signed after the draft in 2014. In my opinion he has shown more value then his fellow 6th round pick (from 2013, the year before) Corey Fuller. He has the upper hand to be the 4th WR on the roster but it is by no means guaranteed a spot. He will be challenged not only by Fuller but by everyone else on the current roster.

Insurance: Andre Caldwell. Caldwell is insurance in case anyone of the above gets injured. He was signed to a one year vet minimum deal, the $80,000 signing bonus is cheap insurance if anything goes wrong due to injury or lack of development of the youngsters. However, if all the top 4 are healthy he likely fails to make the final roster. Like I said before, Quinn is ruthless.

The final WR spot(s): Corey Fuller, Ryan Spadola, Corey Washington, Austin Willis, Jace Billingsley, Quinshad Davis, or Jay Lee. Lions fans know Fuller from the past 3 years of course. Spadola, Washington and Willis were signed this off season to compete. Billingsley, Davis and Lee were signed after the draft when they went undrafted and also are in the mix. You would think that Fuller would have the best chance of making the final roster but I don't feel that is the case at all. His time to shine was last year, and he failed to make that 3rd year jump that wide receivers make if they are to succeed in the NFL. He gets this one extra off season to prove otherwise, but I have a feeling it is someone elses turn to begin the process of development.

My pick? The undrafted rookie Jay Lee. His #RAS is better then the rest of the WR corp. His likelihood of NFL success is better then his competition. His future is very bright indeed, if he applies himself to the task fully. In the last post I mentioned a 30 year scout who used real NFL rankings on players and showed his ranking for the QB the Lions drafted, well Lee also made his list, and he was ranked one notch higher the Rudock. Lee also had a B grade (meaning a player you would select in rounds 2 or 3) and his score was a 6.50 which is "Will need a little more time to develop but should become a solid starter. Will be a quality backup his first and second year depending on a team's needs and strengths but could start earlier if a top team is weak at the position. A second to third round pick. You win WITH this type of player." None of the other undrafteds even made the list at all to garner a score.

In summary, at wide receiver, it appears at this point in time to be:
WR: Golden Tate and Marvin Jones; both locks in my opinion.
WR3: Jeremy Kerley (vet presence with slot and outside experience, younger then Caldwell).
WR4: TJ Jones (has been developing better then Fuller).
WR5: Jay Lee (has the most potential of them all).

Andre Caldwell is insurance in case any of the first 4 get injured. Corey Fuller, Ryan Spadola, Corey Washington, Austin Willis, Jace Billingsley and Quinshad Davis are all competing against each other; against Kerley and Jones and Lee for one of those nearly locked up spots; and against the rest of the roster to show they belong as an extra WR instead of another position on the team.

It's going to be some good competition, and some decent talent may end up being cut before the season starts. (if you just had a case of deja vue that is because that is exactly what I said about the RB position). Several of the "losers" will likely make the practice squad though not all of them qualify.

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