Get to know Detroit Lions’ 15 undrafted free-agent signings

Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions announced the signing of 15 undrafted free agents on Friday. Here’s a little bit of information about each of those new additions.

Of note, at least one UDFA, and a total of 22, have made the team’s 53-man roster out of training camp the past 13 years.

Brad Cecil, OL, South Florida

A four-sport athlete in high school and five-year starter for South Florida, Cecil won the school’s perseverance award following the 2022 season after playing through a shoulder injury the previous year that required postseason surgery, and laboring through multiple injuries last season to start 12 games. He finished his college career with 50 starts at center.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 294 pounds, Cecil has above-average athleticism and was a key part of South Florida’s rushing attack that averaged 197.9 yards per game last season.

Chase Cota, WR, Oregon

Big-bodied, high-level athlete, the 6-3 Cota posted excellent leaping, agility and speed numbers at the Ducks’ pro day. A fifth-year senior, he caught a career-best 36 passes for 497 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games last season, his first at Oregon after transferring in from UCLA.

His father, Chad Cota, played eight seasons in the NFL with the Panthers, Saints, Colts and Rams.

Isaac Darkangelo, LB, Illinois

A college teammate of Lions safety Kerby Joseph, Darkangelo is a Michigan native who played his high school ball for Detroit Catholic Central and started his college career at Northern Michigan. He earned honorable-mention All-Big Ten last season as a rotational linebacker. Appearing in all 13 games (two starts), the 6-foot, 227-pounder tallied 71 tackles, including 7½ behind the line of scrimmage.

He also played a key special-teams role for the Fighting Illini, contributing in all four phases. And at his pro day, he ran a blazing 4.55-second 40-yard dash with equally-impressive times in the agility drills.

Darkangelo’s brother Anthony played linebacker at Ferris State.

Cory Durden, DT, North Carolina State

An unheralded workhorse for the Wolfpack, the 6-4, 305-pound Durden played more than 500 defensive snaps last season, primarily at nose tackle. He earned third-team all-conference honors for his efforts, a year after he was named first-team All-ACC the previous season, when he tallied 3½ sacks to go with 31 tackles.

He was arguably even better in 2019, while at Florida State, when he set personal bests for sacks (five) and quarterback pressures (45). That year, he played more on the edge, logging an impressive 719 defensive snaps. A father of two, Durden earned first-team all-academic honors in 2022 and served as a team captain.

Connor Galvin, OT, Baylor

A sixth-year senior who started 50 games as the Bears’ blindside blocker, Galvin earned first-team All-Big 12 honors last season from multiple publications, including the Associated Press. Particularly effective as a pass protector, he allowed only four sacks and committed just four penalties across 27 starts the past two seasons.

Galvin has great size (6-6, 300 pounds) but below-average length (32½-inch arms) for the tackle position. Like the Lions’ final three draft picks, he participated in this year’s East-West Shrine Bowl. Galvin was also an academic all-conference in 2022.

Steven Gilmore, CB, Marshall

The younger brother of five-time Pro Bowler Stephon Gilmore, Steven is a speedy, undersized corner. The 5-foot-8, 174-pounder ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. A two-year starter for the Thundering Herd, he flashed steady ball skills throughout his five-year college career, racking up nine interceptions, 34 pass breakups and three forced fumbles.

There’s also some versatility on the resume, with some previous experience playing in the slot, as well as on multiple special teams.

Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota

Ibrahim is a no-nonsense, north-south runner who broke every meaningful Minnesota rushing record despite only playing in one game in 2021 after suffering a torn Achilles. A three-time 1,000-yard rusher, he led the NCAA with 20 rushing touchdowns last season, bringing his career scoring tally to 53.

He’s not particularly athletic, declining to do any drills leading up to the draft, and he’s undersized (5-8, 209 pounds), but he runs hard, with great pad level, and doesn’t tend to go backward. He’s not likely to contribute in a meaningful way in the pass game (22 receptions in 41 games), but he’ll give you everything he’s got every time you put the ball in his hands. He has the chance to be a solid short-yardage back as a pro.

Ibrahim was a high school teammate of Lions defensive lineman Josh Paschal.

Brandon Joseph, S, Notre Dame

Beginning his college career at Northwestern, Joseph was a ballhawk in his first two years as a starter, racking up nine interceptions and earning first-team All-America honors as a redshirt freshman in 2020. He wasn’t able to further his resume during his one season at Notre Dame. Playing a versatile role, he mustered just one interception and one pass breakup in 10 games in 2022.

He covers up his average athleticism with a high football IQ and reliable open-field tackling, making up for his struggles in that department during the 2021 season. Joseph contributed on special teams every season in college and could carve a path in the NFL through those groups.

Adrian Martinez, QB, Kansas State

There’s a lot to like about Martinez’s profile. He’s a little undersized at 6-2 and 221 pounds, but he’s extremely athletic, as validated by his outstanding pro-day measurements in the 40-yard dash, 3-cone drill and vertical jump. On the field, he posted big numbers during his four-year run as Nebraska’s starter, setting the school record for total offense, with his nearly 8,500 passing yards and additional 2,300 yards as a runner.

But, he’s been wildly inconsistent as a passer, particularly with the turnovers. In 39 games with the Cornhuskers, he was picked off 30 times. He was better in that department in a condensed role at Kansas State last season, upping his completion percentage slightly, while trimming his interceptions to one on 184 throws. He led the team to a 10-3 mark in the regular season.

His three years as a team captain speak to his ability to lead.

Zach Morton, DE, Akron

A Detroit product who played at Cass Tech, Morton is an off-the-radar prospect who started at Syracuse and transferred to Akron after appearing in just six games across four years for the Orange. During the past two seasons with the Zips, the 6-5, 260-pound Morton averaged nearly 600 defensive snaps, racking up 61 tackles, 5½ sacks and 50 quarterback pressures in 24 games.

He does have some compelling athletic upside after posting elite athletic measurements at his pro day, including impressive explosiveness through his leaping metrics and 10-yard split.

Special-teams experience has been limited to field-goal kick/extra-point kick and block units. He’ll likely need to expand his contributions there to have any shot at making the roster.

Trevor Nowaske, LB, Saginaw Valley State

Speaking of athletic upside, Nowaske similarly brings impressive physical gifts to the table. His 4.50-second 40-yard dash and 6.75 times in the 3-cone drill are both among the fastest ever recorded for a linebacker. And he’s not some 225-pound prospect taking advantage of a smaller frame. He’s got an NFL build at 6-2, 237 pounds.

Often playing as the overhang defender in the Cardinals’ defensive scheme, the Canton native modeled his game after Panthers legend Luke Kuechly. Nowaske earned first-team all-conference honors in 2022, stuffing the stat sheet with 98 tackles (9½ for a loss) and four interceptions.

Chris Smith, DT, Notre Dame

Another prospect with local ties, Smith went from Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood to Harvard, where he developed into one of the Ivy League’s top interior defensive linemen, earning first-team all-conference honors in 2021. That season, he recorded 40 tackles (five for a loss), 3½ sacks and two forced fumbles.

Smith transferred to Notre Dame as a fifth-year grad student and appeared in 13 games for the Irish in 2022, making five starts. The 6-1, 302-pounder continued to be an effective run defender and followed up the season by showcasing better-than-expected athleticism at his pro day, with high-level results in the bench press (37 reps), vertical jump and 3-cone drill, posting a result in the 96th percentile for the position.

Smith got a degree at Harvard in Human Evolutionary Biology.

Ryan Swoboda, OT, Central Florida

A staggeringly large human, Swoboda measures in at 6-9, 309 pounds with 34⅝-inch arms. A three-star recruit out of Florida, he spent five seasons at Virginia, moving into the starting lineup as a redshirt junior in 2020. He went on to start 21 games the next two seasons at right tackle.

Transferring closer to home for his sixth and final season, Swoboda took his game to another level in 2022, allowing just 18 pressures and three sacks in 536 pass-blocking snaps for the Knights. After the season, he participated in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and had a strong showing at his pro day, posting well-above-average results in the bench press, broad jump and the 10-yard split of his 40-yard dash, all highlighting explosive athleticism.

In high school, Swoboda also starred for the school’s state championship basketball team.

Starling Thomas V, CB, UAB

A true speedster, Thomas won high school state titles in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter events, while playing both receiver and cornerback for the school’s championship-winning football program. And despite tearing his ACL in his right knee twice, once in high school and again in college (2020), he still ran a 4.38-second, 40-yard dash at his pro day.

Primarily playing outside for the Blazers, Thomas allowed just 47.3% of the throws his direction to be completed throughout his college career, including a personal-best 37.9% last season. He accentuated his sticky coverage with a team-high 15 pass breakups.

Another East-West Shrine Bowl participant, the 5-10, 190-pounder is noted for his strong football character and has extensive special-teams experience.

Keytaon Thompson, WR, Virginia

A dual-threat quarterback who won state championships in both football and basketball as a high schooler, Thompson committed to Mississippi State and spent three years at the school as a rotational backup.

After three quiet seasons at Mississippi State, Thompson transferred to Virginia and transitioned to wide receiver. Despite his 6-4, 218-pound frame, he primarily aligned in the slot the past two seasons, impressively catching 131 balls for 1,569 yards during that stretch, earning third-team all-conference honors in 2022.

Thompson’s football character is demonstrated in the way he attacked his position change and, if nothing else, his versatility could bring value to a scout team.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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