I’ve spoke at length about how thin Tony Scheffler’s position with the Lions is given his lofty contract and expectations and far below average production. With the departure of Will Heller, the Lions made a great effort to find a worthy addition to the Lions’ Hback role Heller vacated, but the types of players they were looking at made me question Scheffler’s safety even more. Players like Michael Williams and Dion Sims were expected, as Heller was primarily a blocking Tight End, but when the Lions started taking a look at players like Kyle Juszcyzk or FA Travis Beckum, it was clear they were looking for someone with the ability to act as a receiving threat as well as a blocker. One common trend in Mock drafts this offseason was the Lions taking a late round Tight End and one name that came up often was UCLA’s Joseph Fauria.
A highly thought of transfer from Notre Dame, Fauria’s massive frame made him an instant mismatch for defenders who had no hope of matching his size and speed. While he is fast for his size, he runs more in the 4.8 range than the 4.72 he ran at his pro day. He is a natural pass catcher and red zone threat using his length and strength to separate from defenders in the cramped areas of the red zone. Prior to the 2012 season, Fauria was considered the best senior Tight End in the nation and one of the best Tight Ends overall, ranked closely behind Zach Ertz and Tyler Eifert. With an increased role in the UCLA offense and a record setting season, you’d expect his stock to raise, yet instead it nose dived from an early day two pick to a potential (and ultimate) Undrafted Free Agent. How could something like that happen?
The first thing to understand is how funny tape can be at times. We already know that one scout could see one thing and another something completely different, but an interesting quirk of game tape is sometimes everybody sees the same thing and despite other aspects being good and notable, those drawbacks can completely overshadow someone’s draft stock and ultimately their draftability altogether. Pass catching Tight Ends like Big Joe Fauria need to have speed to stretch zones and exploit the seam. The easiest and constant comparison is the New Orelans Saints’ TE Jimmy Graham whose combination of size and speed have made him one of the best TEs in the NFL. This former UCLA standout is fast for a guy standing almost 6’8″, but is not such that it makes your jaw drop in awe. His speed is adequate, which is a term that will be used often in looking at Fauria. Scouts like to see speed that wows, not just makes you write OK next to that column.
So what about his hands? Surely he must have some kind of issue with drops? Well again, his hands were adequate. Fauria wasn’t plagued by drops, like the Lions present crop of Tight Ends, but he had his share. He wasn’t aided by QB play, but too often he double caught balls, getting his hands in the perfect spot for the catch but rather than catching it and pulling it into his body, he instead tries to bounce it into his chest for a more stable catch, which results in more drops than you’d like and more incompletions for tough passes while going to the ground. One thing you like is that he fights for contested passes, though it borders on OPI on more than a few occasions. Still, you like that kind aggression in the passing game. One thing that is notable and important, no concentration drops. All of Fauria’s drops were because he couldn’t catch it, not because he was turning upfield or bracing for a hit.
Fauria would never be confused for a blocking Tight End. He obviously knows his talents as a pass catcher outweigh his effectiveness as a blocker, as his best blocks actually come on chip plays where he hits his defender hard at the point of attack before breaking off on his route. When asked to stay inline and block, he compares to Jermichael Finley in how he looks like he can block, but is just unwilling to make the effort. While not a liability in the run or passing game, he isn’t the type of blocker you aggressively run behind for his ability to open holes.
In the end, Fauria was expected to break out as a high draft pick in 2012 and while he never did anything to turn off scouts, he also did nothing to justify that high of a draft grade. The former Bruin looks like a contributor on 3rd downs and red zone situations due to his short area quickness, but his lack of straight line speed and ability to separate from defenders in the open space it is unlikely he will be more than a #2 Tight End at the very best. He has some experience working as a Hback, so it isn’t out of the question that he could tackle that role, but with his ability to work out of the slot and line up on the line make him a better fit for the traditional Tight End role.
Height: 6’7″ Weight: 259 lbs. 40 Time: 4.72
Interesting Note: Fauria’s 12 TDs in 2012 were the most by any UCLA Tight End in school history and two more than the previous record holder, Marcedes Lewis.