MIKE O'HARA

O’HARA: Cornelius Lucas a preseason bright spot for Lions

Posted Aug 12, 2014

Almost three months to the day after being spurned in the draft, Cornelius Lucas was one of the bright spots for the Lions in their victory over the Browns in the opening preseason game Saturday night at Ford Field.

Cornelius Lucas ended his draft-day vigil on May 10 with such a strong feeling of disappointment that when the Lions bypassed taking him in favor of kicker Nate Freese with their last pick in the seventh round he turned off his television set.

His day as a draftnik couch potato was over.

“At that time, I turned the TV off,” Lucas said after practice Monday. “They needed some other things. Of everyone that called me during the process, they showed the most interest.”

His feelings were understandable. Lucas had gotten positive vibes from the Lions before the draft. If they didn’t draft him, he figured no team wanted him.

Wrong. The Lions took Freese to fill a need at kicker, but they hadn’t lost interest in Lucas. They showed how much by calling him soon after the draft and signing him to a contract. It included a signing bonus of $20,000, a sizeable amount for a rookie free agent.

Cornelius LucasT Cornelius Lucas (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Almost three months to the day after being spurned in the draft, Lucas was one of the bright spots for the Lions in their victory over the Browns in the opening preseason game Saturday night at Ford Field.

Lucas entered the game at left offensive tackle late in the first quarter and never came out. He played the last 54 snaps on offense. Only rookie center Travis Swanson, a third-round draft pick, had more playing time, with 62 snaps.

“I knew going into the game, I was expecting to play a little,” Lucas said. “I really didn’t expect to play that many (snaps).

“As the rotation kept going, they kept me in there.”

Lucas could be a piece of how the Lions are trending to youth on the offensive line. So is Swanson, Dominic Raiola’s heir apparent at center.

The offensive line began last season with three new starters – second-year left tackle Riley Reiff, rookie Larry Warford at right guard and Jason Fox at right tackle. Fox departed in the opener because of injury. Veteran Corey Hilliard and rookie LaAdrian Waddle shared the job almost equally the rest of the season and are in competition for the starting job this year.

Lucas is not a threat to replace anyone as a starter this year, but he has a lot of qualities that made him an intriguing prospect. One is size – 6-9 and 323 pounds, with 10-inch hands and an arm length of 36-3/4 inches, longest of any offensive tackle in the 2014 draft.

Lucas had a time of 5.29 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which is decent for a player his size.

And on top of all that, he started every game at left tackle the last two seasons at Kansas State.

However, a foot injury sustained during pre-draft workouts may have scared off some teams who might have had Lucas on their draft board.

“He was one of those guys who was nicked up a little early in the spring,” Coach Jim Caldwell said. “We didn’t get to see him much, but you knew he had some talent. Since he’s been out here, he’s been doing a fine job. He’s tough, doesn’t say much, pretty quiet, but really developing.

“We really like him. Obviously, he’s a very talented guy. We’re glad we were able to get him. It kind of worked out that way in our favor.”

And it worked out in favor of Lucas, whose draft experience is another example of how there are no sure things. That includes high draft picks such as legendary 1989 flop Tony Mandarich to free agents like Waddle who become starters.

Lucas didn’t feel like he was a draft afterthought when he got to Allen Park to begin the offseason workouts.

“I’m 6-9, so I never feel like ‘another guy,’” he said, smiling. “I take everything like I’m ‘that guy.’ Ever since I got here, I’ve had the feeling they want me to get better. I’ll see where I go from there.”