Lions looking for experienced special teams contributors

Posted May 8, 2014

The Lions will be looking for special teams experience over perceived measureables when evaluating late-round draft prospects.

So much attention from the Detroit Lions fan base has focused on the team’s No. 10 overall pick, naturally. Will the Lions stay at 10? Could they move up? Is moving back a real option?

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew told reporters on Monday that every option is on the table.

There hasn’t been a whole lot of talk about the later rounds, however, other than the Lions potentially being in the market for a developmental quarterback or kicker. When it comes to the late rounds, teams are looking for developmental players and guys who can come in and play special teams right away.

The Lions have actually made a philosophical change this year in the way they’ll evaluate those late-round prospects.

“When we were doing some of the later round free agent guys, I had the area scouts flag guys they thought were going to be really good special teams players,” Mayhew said. “In the past, we’ve kind of relied on measurables, a guy’s height, weight, speed, you know, if he was a physical player, if he could operate in space. Some guys didn’t play a lot of special teams, but you say, ‘This guy could probably play special teams.’

“We found out a lot of times, Bono (special team’s coordinator John Bonamego) didn’t want some of those guys. We’re saying this guy can play teams and maybe Bono wanted a guy who actually played teams or Danny Crossman or whoever our teams coach was at the time.”

“So, we actually spent more time delving into some of those later round guys who play on special teams, who play four phases and trying to locate some of those guys later in the draft or in free agency in this year.”

Justin GilbertCB Justin Gilbert (Photo: AP Images)

Along those same lines, some of the prospects at the top of the draft have some terrific special teams capabilities as well, players like cornerback Justin Gilbert (25.2 yards per kickoff return) and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (25.1).

“It factors in,” Mayhew said of the versatility of some players being able to play special teams. “It factors in more when you don’t have a competent returner, which we do (Jeremy Ross). But it’s certainly something you take into consideration if somebody can be a backup punt returner, if he has more versatility.

“You can only dress 46 players, so you want to have guys that can play multiple spots. It factors in.”

So look for the Lions to pick up players on Saturday who they not only think can help them on offense and defense, but can step in right away and make their special teams better. Players who've made their college teams better doing it.