Corey Fuller has the potential for an increased role

Posted Jan 27, 2015

The Lions are looking for a third receiver to step up behind Johnson and Tate. If Corey Fuller continues to improve like he did last offseason, he could be their man.

Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew drafted Corey Fuller in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft knowing that the young receiver was a little wet behind the ears.

Fuller was a converted track star and didn't have a lot of football experience, but Mayhew liked his size (6-2) and obviously his speed, and thought he could be a player who could stretch the field.

He also knew it was going to take some time.

Corey FullerWR Corey Fuller (Photo: Detroit Lions)

"I think he is a developmental guy,” Mayhew told media members right after picking Fuller. “He has not played a whole lot of football. But we see a lot of upside with him and we see a guy that's got some ability possibly to help us with special teams while he's developing. So we see a guy with a lot of tools."

Fuller spent his first season in Detroit on the practice squad learning as much as he could from Calvin Johnson. He continued to develop in his first real offseason and made the 53-man roster out of camp this past season. He ended up catching 14 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown and averaged 15.1 yards per catch as Johnson's backup and an extra receiver in multi-receiver sets.

When Johnson missed three games in the middle of the season due to a high ankle sprain, Fuller filled in and caught eight passes for 99 yards and the winning touchdown in the Saints game.

The Lions have one of the best one-two punches at receiver with Johnson and Tate. Detroit was just one of five teams in the NFL to have two 1,000-yard receivers in 2014.

Johnson reached 1,077 yards despite missing those three games and joined Tate (1,331) in surpassing 1,000 receiving yards. They became the first pair of Lions receivers to both reach 1,000 receiving yards in the same season since 2006 (Roy Williams, 1310; Mike Furrey, 1,086).

The Lions are hoping for more production from their third, fourth and fifth receivers, however, and Fuller thinks he can be that third option with another fine offseason.

“I think I had a big improvement coming in from last year to this year,” Fuller said. “If I just keep on progressing, who knows where I can go.”

Fuller, Jeremy Ross, Ryan Broyles and TJ Jones will all be in the mix to fill those complementary receiving spots behind Johnson and Tate. Expect the Lions to add to the group via free agency and the draft as well.

But Fuller is an interesting prospect moving forward. He took the biggest leap of just about anyone on the team from year one in the league to year two. He provides unique abilities with his speed and length.

Fuller said his main focus this offseason is improving his route running.

“The whole (route) tree,” he said. “Being able to expand the routes they throw me.”

Mayhew has made the comment in the past that year three is big for players in the NFL. If they can’t prove they’ve got what it takes in year three, they probably won’t ever show it.

Fuller showed flashes this past season. If his game takes as big a leap from year two to year three as it did year one to year two, he could find himself being that third receiver the Lions are hoping emerges in their offense next season.