Cornelius Lucas has a real shot to make Lions roster

Posted May 17, 2014

Cornelius Lucas is using his draft snub as motivation to make the Lions 53-man roster and contribute as a rookie.

Forget about having a chip on his shoulder, Detroit Lions free-agent tackle Cornelius Lucas says he has a boulder.

Lucas sat around all draft weekend waiting for his name to be called but it never was.

“It was just a stressful time,” Lucas told after Saturday’s rookie minicamp practice. “There were 256 names and it got more and more stressful as they went by.”

A two-year starter at left tackle for Kansas State, Lucas was projected to be a mid-round pick in the draft, but a stress fracture is his left foot suffered two weeks before the NFL Scouting Combine forced him onto the operating table and to miss the next eight weeks to recover.

It was during those eight weeks that draft prospects were having pro days and individual workouts for teams.

Lucas missed all of it, and he thinks it contributed to him going undrafted.

“I definitely feel like it played a part because people didn’t know if I was going to be healthy or not,” Lucas said. “I was healthy enough to be drafted.”

In the long run, however, not being drafted, and ultimately signing with the Lions, might have been the best thing for him.

Cornelius LucasT Cornelius Lucas (Photo: Detroit Lions)

He had an “in-depth” conversation with assistant offensive line coach Bobby Johnson at the combine and felt the Lions had a real interest in him from then on.

Lucas said the Lions first contacted him in the middle of the fourth round last Saturday to remind him how interested they were. The team considered drafting him later that day, but he eventually became their top target in the free-agent market directly following the draft. The team reportedly gave him a $20,000 bonus to sign, which was more than what Joe Fauria and LaAdrian Waddle received following last year's draft.

“I don’t know if you guys know much about him, but this guy is 6-foot-8, 320 pounds,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew told Sirius NFL Radio in an interview this past week. “He had 26 straight starts at Kansas State. We think he has a chance to be like a Waddle sort of guy. We’re going to try him at left and right tackle. The guy was productive (at Kansas State).”

Mayhew was referencing the route Waddle took to the NFL last year. Like Lucas, the Lions targeted him late in the draft and were able to get him signed as a free agent right after the seventh round.

“Me and Waddle have definitely had some talks already,” Lucas said. “Just about getting acclimated to the program and things like that.

“I definitely see a big opportunity here. This is definitely somewhere where I can fit in. The whole draft I was scrolling through each team’s website looking at the rosters and seeing who could pick me up at that moment. When the Lions actually contacted me, and I looked at their roster, they were short on offensive linemen and I felt it would be a good fit. I already had ties with coach (Ron) Prince and Devin Fitzsimmons from Kansas State.”

Waddle made the 53-man roster out of training camp last year and eventually won the starting right tackle spot and made eight starts as a rookie.

“He might be a guy, like Waddle, who not a lot of people were really on, but we’re excited about this kid,” Mayhew said of Lucas. “He’s not doing much right now. He’s waiting on his foot to get healthy, but he’s definitely got a chance to make our team.”

The Lions typically keep four tackles on the final roster out of training camp. Riley Reiff, Waddle and Corey Hilliard are currently the top three. Lucas will be competing with J.B. Shugarts, and A.J. Dalton for that fourth spot.

When it's all said and done, Lucas will have a great shot to become the second undrafted tackle to make the Lions roster in as many seasons.