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Martin Mayhew's best UDFA finds for the Detroit Lions

The Lions signed LaAdrian Waddle as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and he became a starter his rookie year. AP Photo/Rick Osentoski

One of the more underrated areas of Martin Mayhew’s recent tenure as general manager has been his ability to find strong undrafted free agents in the hours following the draft.

He has had at least one undrafted free agent make the initial 53-man roster every year since 2011 and some have made significant contributions. There’s a couple ways to take that. Either the Detroit Lions roster was weak enough for these guys to slide onto the team or he had some strong late draft evaluations.

Early on, it was probably a bit of both, but Mayhew has been particularly strong in that area the last two drafts. Here are some of his better finds.

Ryan Donahue, P, Iowa, 2011: He didn’t have a long career, but he did win the Detroit punting job out of camp in 2011 and lasted eight weeks on the roster before injuring his quad. He never punted for the Lions again, averaging 42.7 yards per punt and 36.4 net yards per punt. It may not be a big deal, but that’s a decent find by Mayhew.

Ricardo Silva, DB, Hampton, 2011: He didn’t make Detroit right out of his first training camp, landing on the practice squad. But Silva ended up in 14 games over two seasons for the Lions, making 37 tackles along with one interception. He even started six games for Detroit during the 2012 season.

Patrick Edwards, WR, Houston, 2012: He hung around Detroit for all or part of three seasons, even making the active roster out of training camp in 2013 and was viewed as a potential breakout receiver. It never materialized as he only caught five passes for 46 yards before being cut by Detroit and placed on its practice squad again.

Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State, 2012: He hasn’t dressed or played in a regular season NFL game yet, but Moore has become a valuable piece for Detroit. He essentially serves as another coach while being the team’s emergency quarterback and proved enough to Lions coach Jim Caldwell and his staff that they signed him to a two-year deal during the offseason despite him not playing in a game. His value is all about what he does off the field during the week.

LaAdrian Waddle, OT, Texas Tech, 2013: This might be Mayhew’s best undrafted find. Waddle made the Lions out of training camp in 2013 and in two seasons he has played 1,042 snaps according to ESPN Stats & Information, including eight starts his rookie year. Waddle beat out Corey Hilliard for the starting right tackle spot in 2014 and while he was limited to 10 games due to injury, he has been productive when he has played. Unless something happens in the draft, Waddle projects to be Detroit’s starter at right tackle in 2015.

Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA, 2013: He didn’t have the consistency of Waddle, but he did make a massive splash during his rookie year. He caught 16 passes for 207 yards with seven touchdowns. He missed nine games last season due to multiple ankle injuries and didn’t have much production when healthy, catching only six passes for 74 yards and one touchdown as the Lions didn’t find much rhythm for the tight ends in their offense. His size and strong hands made him a good pickup by Mayhew.

Cornelius Lucas, OT, Kansas State, 2014: Another physical marvel, the 6-foot-9 Lucas was the best UDFA signing Mayhew made last season. Lucas, like Waddle the year before, ended up as a starter by the end of the season, including Detroit’s playoff game against Dallas. He will likely end up competing for the No. 3 tackle spot with either Waddle and either Michael Williams or a draft pick. There’s a chance he could push for a starting job, depending on Waddle’s injury and Lucas’ development.

Jerome Couplin, S, William & Mary, 2014: Couplin didn’t do a ton for the Lions after making the team out of camp last season, finishing with two tackles in eight games as a special-teams player. He is an intriguing player, though, who ended up with both Buffalo and Philadelphia by the end of the season. He is still with the Eagles.