Taking a closer look at Lions’ dozen undrafted free agent signings

Detroit News

Allen Park — Two weeks after most of the agreements had been reported, the Detroit Lions formally announced the signing of a dozen undrafted free agents on Friday. 

The Lions have had at least one undrafted rookie, and a total of 22, make the Week 1 roster in every season dating back to 2010.

Below is a brief bio on each of the new additions: 

► Greg Bell, RB, San Diego State

Reminiscent of cornerback Jerry Jacobs, a UDFA signing last season, Bell traveled the long road to Detroit. Initially starting at a junior college due to academic issues, he transferred to Nebraska after two seasons but struggled to get on the field, logging fewer than 40 touches.

That led to a transfer to San Diego State, but football was temporarily put on hold when he suffered an eye injury during training. He was able to finish his college career strong, rushing for 1,091 yards (4.5 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns in 2021. An average athlete at his position, the 5-foot-10, 201-pound Bell also didn’t have the opportunity to demonstrate much as a receiver during his time at either Nebraska or San Diego State. 

► Cedric Boswell, DB, Miami (Ohio)

A two-way player at Birmingham Groves High School, Boswell once ran for 334 yards in a game. He also placed second in the state in the 100-meter dash. Initially committing to Iowa, he transferred after playing sparingly his first two seasons.

Largely playing outside for the RedHawks, the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder racked up 61 tackles, seven pass breakups, one interception and a forced fumble in 12 games last season. 

 ► Derrick Deese Jr., TE, San Jose State

Deese plays bigger than his 6-foot-3, 244-pound frame would suggest. Often lining up off-tackle for the Spartans, he’s a physical run blocker who saw his pass-game production steadily increase throughout his college career. The former high school receiver racked up 47 catches for 730 yards and four touchdowns last season, showing the ability to use his long limbs to consistently make catches when tightly covered. 

Deese’s father, Derrick Sr., had a lengthy NFL career. He played offensive line 11 seasons, starting 132 games with the 49ers and Buccaneers. 

► Obinna Eze, OT, TCU

Eze possesses a monstrous 6-foot-6, 321-pound frame with ideal length for the position. A two-year starter at Memphis (2019-20), he transferred to TCU for his final season, starting 12 games at left tackle and earning honorable mention all-conference honors. 

Born in Nigeria, his initial passion was basketball. He picked up football shortly after moving to the United States in 2015, playing only one season of varsity. His relative lack of experience suggests he’ll be a developmental project, but his size and above-average athleticism point to a reasonably high ceiling. 

► Nolan Givan, TE, Southeastern

Another local product, Givan twice earned all-state honors playing for Berkley High School. He began his collegiate career at Ball State, appearing in 36 games and making 22 starts from 2016-19. After tallying 51 catches for 352 yards during that stretch, he transferred to San Diego State for one season before shifting to Southeastern.

There, he more than doubled his receiving production the previous four seasons, catching 56 balls for 572 yards. He followed that up with a strong showing at his pro day, including a 4.74-second 40-yard dash and 35.5-inch vertical. 

 ► Kevin Jarvis, OL, Michigan State

A versatile lineman, the 6-foot-5, 317-pounder started games at left tackle, right tackle and right guard for the Spartans, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors as a fifth-year senior in 2021. He lacks ideal length and will likely be permanently moved inside at the next level. 

 ► Josh Johnson, WR, Tulsa

Starting at Iowa State, Johnson transferred to Tulsa after barely seeing the field through two seasons. He blossomed with the Golden Hurricane, hauling in 44 receptions for 495 yards his first season and 83 catches for 1,114 yards (and six touchdowns) his last. 

Johnson is a small-framed receiver, measuring in at just 5-foot-10, 179 pounds at his pro day. And he didn’t post particularly impressive measurables in the handful of drills he participated in at the event. Still, his film demonstrates an ability to find space and make tacklers miss in the open field. He showed that scouting report holds up against elite competition, making eight grabs for 149 yards and a touchdown against Ohio State last season. 

 ► Zein Obeid, OL, Ferris State

Obeid’s family immigrated from Lebanon to Dearborn in 2009. He didn’t pick up competitive football until his junior year, but quickly became a star on both sides of the ball for Fordson, earning a scholarship offer from Ferris State. A two-year starter at left tackle for the program, he played a key role for the 2021 D-II champions. 

Known for playing with a nasty streak, Obeid is often projected as a guard at the next level, but he has the necessary size (6-foot-4, 309 pounds), length (34¼-inch arms) and athleticism to potentially stick at tackle. 

► Kalil Pimpleton, WR, Central Michigan 

Another undersized receiver, Pimpleton was a playmaking machine for the Chippewas as both a pass-catcher and return man, earning all-conference honors three times. 

The 5-foot-8, 172-pounder averaged 15.5 yards on his 62 receptions last season, plus an impressive 19 yards as a punt returner, scoring twice in that role. He has also proved to be a weapon taking handoffs, scoring five times the past two seasons as a ball carrier. 

► Corey Sutton, WR, Appalachian State

Sutton didn’t participate in the pre-draft process due to a lingering injury, but the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder established a reputation for being able to take the top off the defense while at Appalachian State. 

After an unproductive start to his college career at Kansas State, Sutton transferred and averaged 49 catches, 760 yards and eight touchdowns during his three healthy seasons with the Mountaineers. He did miss the 2020 campaign after tearing his ACL, but any concerns about lingering effects were put to rest when he posted personal-best production as a senior last season. 

► Demetrius Taylor, DT, Appalachian State

Taylor is unquestionably undersized for his position, standing just 6-foot and weighing 289 pounds, but there’s no denying the production. A first-team all-conference selection each of the past three seasons, he showed a knack for getting to the quarterback, tallying 20 sacks during that stretch. 

Highly durable, Taylor appeared in 65 games at Appalachian State, missing none the past four seasons. 

► Jermaine Waller, CB, Virginia Tech

A three-year starter, the 6-foot, 180-pound Waller has shown a knack for making plays on the ball, breaking up 24 passes and intercepting seven throws across his past 26 appearances. That production earned him second-team all-conference honors last season. 

His disappointing combine and pro-day testing likely played a role in Waller going undrafted. He displayed below-average speed and athleticism for the position between the two events, including a subpar 4.68-second 40-yard dash. The Lions are overlooking that due to the ball skills, toughness and tackling he’s put on film.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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