Road Is Tough For Detroit's Undrafted

The work of GMs and team scouts doesn't end with the NFL draft, writes Mike Mady. The team's pursuit of undrafted free-agents is just as meticulous, and as history has shown us, isn't always "training camp fodder." More inside on Detroit's undrafted free-agents, and potential impact on the team.

Over recent years the National Football League draft has become a much-hyped spectacle. Much of the excitement is over once the first day ends and is almost completely gone once the last selection is made. However, the work of a general manager looking to improve his team with young talent hasn't ended.

General managers, coaches and scouts must now decide which undrafted players they want to sign and bring into camp. These signings generally fly under the radar and usually involve players who fail to make the final roster. However, there are some situations where undrafted rookies make teams and even develop into contributing starters.

Some undrafted players who eventually made a tremendous impact in the NFL include Kurt Warner, Warren Moon, Adam Vinatieri, Antonio Gates, Tony Romo and Willie Parker. There are other starters as well as solid backups currently in the NFL who were never drafted.

The Detroit Lions have signed several undrafted free agents in the lastweek. These players will take part in the Lions' rookie mini-camp (May 2-4). Many of them will be hard pressed to make the team however, will have the opportunity to show the team what they have to offer.

Some of the Lions' free agent signings include:

Bobbie Williams, S, Bethune Cookman

Williams enjoyed a solid four-year stay at the collegiate level. He displayed good tackling and ball skills recording 262 tackles and 15 interceptions during this time. He also has decent size (6-0, 212). He will be able to challenge for a roster spot; however, will need to show some great special teams play to be considered.

Tyronne Pruitt, LB, Boston College

Pruitt is a bit undersized (5-11, 210), but is a solid open field tackler with good lateral movement and decent speed. He also proved to be an effective special team player in college. His best opportunity to make the team will be as a special teamer, covering kicks.

Mark Nicolet, QB, Hillsdale College

Nicolet is coming off a successful college career. In 2007, while playing for Hillsdale College, Nicolet compiled over 3,300 yards and 31 touchdowns (both school records). However, playing for Hillsdale prevented Nicolet the opportunity to play against much top-end talent. He will most likely be a long-shot to make the team.

Darrell Blackman, WR, North Carolina State

Blackman has shown consistent improvement over his four-year college career. Last season he finished with 41 catches for 593 yards and one touchdown. However, it is most likely that his special teams ability gained the Lions' attention. Blackman was an effective returner throughout his college career and if he can display the same abilities in training camp he will have a shot at making the team.

Some other signings include RB Allen Ervin (Lambuth College), S Justin Sanders (Illinois), LS Jonathan Weeks (Baylor), OL Matt Butler (East Carolina)

All the players brought in by the Lions – and the other 31 NFL teams – will have a difficult time making the roster. The majority will be cut, some will remain on the practice squad and others may stick as special teamers. The job of an undrafted free agent isn't glamorous and their road to the NFL may be the most difficult. The up-hill battle they have to fight can be grueling, but for those who make it – even just as special teamers – it's a special accomplishment.


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