Lions UDFA watch: Assessing the undrafted rookies entering the 1st preseason game

One of the more interesting facets of the first preseason game is seeing the rookies in action against another team for the first time. For the undrafted rookies in Detroit, most fans have no real exposure to what they’re doing in camp or what skills they might offer.

Here’s a primer on the Lions undrafted rookie class and how they’re faring entering Friday night’s preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons.

Note that the list here has been pared down with the recent retirements of WR Corey Sutton and OL Zein Obeid.

Obinna Eze

Eze is an easy Lion to spot. The offensive tackle stands a legit 6-foot-8 and might have the longest arms of any Detroit player I’ve ever seen–a notion Lions legend Lomas Brown backed up in a recent practice.

Eze has bounced between both right and left tackle and also between the third-team offense and the second string. Most of his work has come on the third unit at left tackle, and that’s where to expect Eze against Atlanta.

Throughout camp, Eze has improved his ability to land his long punch. He continues to struggle with his length when forced to adjust on the fly; there’s a point of diminishing returns with length and Eze crosses that line too frequently to be considered anything more than a practice squad candidate for 2022.

Kalil Pimpleton

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

He might not be the biggest, but there might not be a more entertaining player on the entire Lions roster to watch in action than Pimpleton. The diminutive (listed at 5-9/172) wideout from Central Michigan is a bundle of speedy kinetic energy and incredible agility with the ball in his hands.

Pimpleton has a tiny catch radius and that limits him when working on the third-team offense, often with QB Tim Boyle and his lack of pinpoint accuracy. To Pimpleton’s credit, he catches anything he can reach and instantly transitions from receiver to runner.

His best chance of making the roster is as a return specialist, and that’s not out of the question. Pimpleton has consistently taken second- and third-team reps at both punt and kick return specialist throughout camp, though the recent addition of USFL standout Maurice Alexander hinders the opportunity there.

Kevin Jarvis

There’s a lot of local fan interest in Jarvis, who played collegiately at nearby Michigan State. Primarily playing either guard spot on the third-team offensive line, Jarvis has shown the desired “grit” trait but not a lot of technical success.

Jarvis looks to be in an uphill battle to overtake last year’s UDFAs, Tommy Kraemer and Ryan McCollum, as well as former fourth-rounder Logan Stenberg for a reserve spot on the interior offensive line.


Nolan Givan

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Givan is from the Detroit area, but the tight end from Southeastern Louisiana–with stops at Ball State and San Diego State–has done little to indicate he can stick around his hometown with the Lions.

There have been drops in drills–more than any other combatant in a very crowded tight end room. Givan isn’t sudden in any way as an athlete, either. He’s shown improvement on special teams and at blocking in space, but he’s at the bottom of an 8-man TE group without a lot of upward mobility potential.

Demetrius Taylor

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Taylor has built upon a very impressive team minicamp with a solid training camp. The squatty nose tackle from Appalachian State has earned reps on the second-team defensive line and even a handful of first-team reps , as well as the “Sawed-off” nickname from head coach Dan Campbell.

In fact, Campbell discussed Taylor at length during Monday’s press conference,

“It’s what you see, every day he makes a play or two. Just everyday he does something to where he flashes. He gets under guys, he plays with really good leverage, he’s strong, he’s stout, he’s got a quick first step, and so, he’s a nuisance. He’s a nuisance for those guys on offense. Now, there were some things in the scrimmage where he got moved a little bit in some of these double teams which is where he’s going to have to – that’s going to be an area of where he’s going to really try to anchor in there, and he’s got to be perfect on those things because he’s not a huge guy. But I’ll tell you what you – somebody that maximizes everything he’s got, it’s him.”

Coach Campbell pretty much nailed what we’ve seen from Taylor all summer: a nuisance to block but in need of better anchor strength to hold up in run defense. He’s got a real chance to make the 53-man roster given the injury status of linemen like Josh Paschal, Levi Onwuzurike and Romeo Okwara. If he can make a play or two in the preseason–something he’s done in camp with an interception or a batted pass or a fumble recovery–Taylor will be a very tough cut. He’s absolutely got a spot on the Lions’ practice squad if he clears waivers–and he might not.


Josh Johnson

Johnson has had an uneven summer in Detroit. The speedy wideout from Tulsa flashes the speed and playmaking, but it’s been very hit-and-miss and interspersed with too many dropped passes in both individual and team drills. A lack of oomph on special teams is a real problem in projecting Johnson even to make the practice squad. He’s definitely behind Pimpleton in terms of chances to stick around with the Lions.

Derrick Deese Jr.

Lions tight end Derrick Deese Jr. (48) practices during the first day of training camp July 27, 2022 in Allen Park.

Deese is battling with Givan to get more traction in the overcrowded TE room. And he might have found his potential niche in getting some reps at H-back while starting fullback Jason Cabinda is sidelined in training camp.

Deese’s father played offensive line in the NFL for a decade, and the blocking chops show. He’s had some solid work on special teams and in team drills as a lead blocker. Deese hasn’t shown much of a threat as a receiver beyond catching an outlet pass, however.

Cedric Boswell

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The Lions hit with two UDFA cornerbacks in 2021 in Jerry Jacobs and AJ Parker and they just might have found another legit NFL CB in Boswell. The 5-11 corner from Miami (Ohio) has flashed some real talent in coverage on the deep reserve defense.

Boswell clearly has speed to burn and doesn’t mind getting physical in his press jam. He’s been a little too easy to block in team drills and needs some refinement in his transition technique, but Boswell is absolutely worthy of practice squad development.


Story originally appeared on Lions Wire