Undrafted and Still Dancing in Detroit

Rookie tight end Joseph Fauria has made an immediate impact on the Lions, and not just with his end-zone moves. Where did they find this guy? Plus, mailbag questions on the NFL's No. 2 team and the Vick-Foles debate

Joseph Fauria has had plenty of time to practice his dance moves this season, with five of the rookie tight end's seven receptions going for touchdowns. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Joseph Fauria has had plenty of time to practice his dance skills this season, with five of the rookie tight end’s seven receptions going for touchdowns. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Receiving touchdowns this season:

Joseph Fauria, tight end, Detroit: 5.
Andre Johnson, Hakeem Nicks, Julio Jones, Vincent Jackson (combined): 4.

There were 16 tight ends taken in the 2013 NFL Draft, but Fauria, the nephew of veteran NFL tight end Christian Fauria, was not one of them. At 6-7 and 255, the former Notre Dame and UCLA receiver, was either too stiff or too much of a loose cannon—the two faults found with Fauria by scouts—to merit being one of the 254 players picked last April.

MMQB Mail

Don't miss the mailbag on Page 2, where Peter King answers readers’ questions about the second-best team in the NFL and where he stands on the Foles-Vick debate.

Bet those scouts would like to rewrite their reports now. After six weeks of the season, Fauria, the Lions’ third tight end, has taken advantage of an injury to veteran Tony Scheffler. On Sunday, the rookie played 23 snaps against the Browns and made them count. Backing up Brandon Pettigrew, Fauria caught three touchdown passes from Matthew Stafford, giving him five for the season. Only Julius Thomas (seven), Vernon Davis (six) and Jimmy Graham (six) have more touchdown receptions by a tight end than Fauria. He has those five touchdowns on only seven catches, and with what the Lions coaches have seen in Fauria, there’s no question he’ll be getting the ball more in the coming weeks.

“What separates Joe,’’ said coach Jim Schwartz, “and has allowed him to make those plays is he’s really strong and has really strong hands.” And he’s ridiculously tall. On Sunday in Cleveland, he had five inches on two of the linebackers covering him in space, and with the accuracy of Stafford, Fauria was able to pluck balls down and not get them stripped—because, as Schwartz said, he has such a strong grip on the ball.

Watching him play, it seems amazing he wasn’t drafted. He is a little stiff, but isn’t every big tight end not named Vernon Davis or Jimmy Graham “a little stiff?” Sixteen tight ends picked and not Fauria … that’s a pretty good reason to question the people doing your West Coast scouting.

“Hey, Arian Foster wasn’t drafted either,’’ Fauria told me this week. “I’m going to embrace that part of my profile. I’m going to use it to drive me the rest of my career. I’m not a scout, obviously, and when all the picks kept going by that weekend and I didn’t get picked, I just kept my eyes forward, didn’t blink and said, ‘Those people don’t know me. I know what I’m capable of, and someone’s going to get lucky giving me a chance.’”

At 6-8, Fauria has proved to be a matchup nightmare for defensive backs. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
At 6-7, Fauria has proved to be a matchup nightmare for defensive backs. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan saw early he could trust Fauria in the receiving game, and that he was a willing but not great blocker. And such a target. So Fauria kept getting chances, and Sunday in Cleveland, those chances turned into those three touchdown passes. He was single-covered on all three: by a 6-foot safety, Johnson Bademosi, 6-1 linebacker Craig Robertson and 5-10 safety T.J. Ward. On the last one, at the line of scrimmage, Ward came up close to Fauria, as if to bump him at the snap of the ball—and the height difference was stunning. Fauria was a head taller.

On the three touchdown catches, Fauria had seven, six and nine inches, respectively, on the men who covered him. When Stafford throws high and accurate, it’s virtually unstoppable.

Fauria is a bright kid, peppy and showy and an end-zone dancer when he scores, and he finds it almost overwhelmingly cool to be making an impact on the NFL when no one thought he’d make an NFL roster. After Sunday’s game, Calvin Johnson walked by him and said, “Good game.’’

Fauria said: “Hi Calvin.’’ And when he passed, Fauria added: “Wow. That was cool.”

“That’s one of the best I’m getting a chance to play with, and I don’t take it for granted,’’ Fauria said. “CJ getting doubled out there makes it pretty easy for me, because I think my size can help create mismatches. And the way Matthew Stafford throws the ball—I’m in awe catching it. Such a good ball.’’

He’ll be seeing quite a few of those from Stafford.

.

Now let’s head over to Page 2 for your email:

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86 comments
Gary6
Gary6

As a cowboys fan, I dont understand the Vikings question about how a team can be a playoff team one year then suck the next.  Our team is 8-8.  We were 8-8 last year, and the year before.  We are 3-3, headed for 8-8.  We have an average coach, an average QB, and A GM that overpays for average performance.  32 teams in the NFL, and I would like to design a "We are #16" foam finger/hand to wear to the games.

FightingTard
FightingTard

Someone needs to remind Peter that there are other teams in the NFL apart from the Pats and there are other players apart from Brady and Manning.

His two pieces this week have been a major bit of fanboy love the likes of which we have never seen before.

Jon8
Jon8

If the NFL is in a mind to make some rule changes, Intentional Grounding should be front and center! The penalty, 10 yards AND loss of down for an incomplete pass is absurd!

In an era when you are trying to find ways to protect the QB, here is a no-brainier staring you in the face! Eliminate IG as a penalty. Let the QB's throw the ball away! Will this eliminate sacks? Absolutely not as QB's will still hold the ball too long, blitzes and bull rushes will still be to quick for the QB to contend with!

The result of the play is an incomplete pass and 3 of those in a row and you are punting and it definitely would help protect the QB!

Jon8
Jon8

Fauria is just further proof that defensive backs and safeties have to be bigger! The day of the hard-hitting 5'10" safety is gone!

We need 6'5" DB's! That'll be the next wave!

dennis
dennis

Let's say the refs made the accurate call when the Patriots jumped past the neutral zone on fourth down, and the Saints were rightfully given the first down. The game would have been over at that point, and no talking now about what a great guy Brady is. So therefore, he owes the refs more than his defense. Not whining, but just putting the Patriots' "win" into perspective.

thowe211
thowe211

Fauria....I saw last year tear up Arizona and knew the kid was going to be something special.  Still amazed he didn't get drafted.

marino.eccher
marino.eccher

King writes:

"But until the Vikings fix that spot under center for good, I don’t care how good Adrian Peterson is and I don’t care how many sacks their good defensive front produces, the Vikings always will struggle to win big games without a quarterback. Every team does."

He's right in that every franchise needs a quarterback to be consistently good. But right now, the story of the Vikings collapse is a defense that's No. 30 in points allowed per game, No. 31 in yards allowed and No. 31 in third down conversions allowed. Their "good defensive front" has produced 10 sacks all year -- 29th in the league.

The offense has problems and the quarterback spot has been inconsistent, but they're No. 10 in scoring. The biggest problems are on the other side of the ball, even if it's easier to analyze the team with a sermon on the importance of quarterbacking.

 

T.Christian
T.Christian

The question about the Vikings becomes 100+ words about Brady and 50 words about Vikings. Nice.

Ericfollowedbyanumber
Ericfollowedbyanumber

“What separates Joe,’’ said coach Jim Schwartz, “and has allowed him to make those plays is he’s really strong and has really strong hands.” 

Those hands stand out in comparison to Pettigrew's, who can drop anything, and what he does catch he manages to fumble.

luvfoozball
luvfoozball

Shouldn't Joseph Fauria be mad at the Lions too because they passed on him continuously for 7 rounds?

KirkNewsted
KirkNewsted

Nice whitewash on the e-mails today Peter.  Funny how none of the e-mails called you out on coaches and being a homer.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Gee whiz, I get so tired of Peter King writing what HE wants in HIS articles. Shouldn't he be writing what I want??? He sure does have a lot of nerve. Oh well, I guess I'll read again next week just to see if he dares to do it again.

LeeMorrell
LeeMorrell

So let me get this straight...you work for NBC on the SNF broadcast and you didn't even bother to look at the stats from the game, let alone highlights or - GASP - watch the game you did pregame analysis for?  NBC needs to review your contract...

enelsoniii1
enelsoniii1

What a total stud! The Browns had NO ANSWER for him, and the same will be true for any team coming up - with CJ on the other side, what exactly do you do on jump balls? Try the Revis approach of holding?

touseyd
touseyd

so let me make sure i got this right. this whiteboy gets to dance around the endzone but no fine from goodell and is glorified on MMQB, but ochocinco,T.O.,joe horn, black WRs,etc. get fined. Thanks just making sure i got that right.

Mike26
Mike26

(channeling my inner Anti-New England vibe):  Peter, I believe you mean that your wrote 12,000 words about Tom Brady yesterday, not just 1,200.  Those commas in numbers can really be tricky!

MicahThoughtlife
MicahThoughtlife

@FightingTard actually we have seen it before. MMQB usually has a bias in its coverage toward the Patriots. Understandable in some ways, it's a successful and storied franchise and King has personal links with the Boston area, but I agree it does get old. The Manning thing, ok I get where you're coming from but personally, with the year this guy's having right now, I don't mind King giving him coverage, in fact I'm all for it. Who would you rather?

noly972
noly972

@Jon8 Make it a spot foul with loss of down. That's the equivalent of a sack. In fact, they could award a sack as part of the foul.

ProfessorGriff
ProfessorGriff

@Jon8 Stupid.  AS if QB's don't get enough damn protection from week to week.

Mike26
Mike26

@Jon8 You've had some doozies recently, but this jumps to the top of the list.  It becomes clearer each week that you've not played the game at a high level and studied it even less than you've played.  The more you post the less doubt everyone has about your true football aptitude.

jb22
jb22

@Jon8 So if a QB is being wrapped up and about to take a sack he can just lightly toss the ball to the ground for an incomplete pass?  No thanks.

rjl8125
rjl8125

@dennis Let's say Stills gets called for offensive pass interference in the end zone (if Aaron Dobson's one hand push off on the 25 yard gain in the third quarter was interference, then Still's two handed push off should have been called, also) or the helmet to helmet hit that knocked Amendola unconscious (on 3rd down) was called to keep that drive going; then the off sides would not have mattered, either.

The Saints lost, fair and square. Quit crying.

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@dennis Arguing a holding call that no one -- refs, booth team, coaches -- spotted during the game is pretty much the dictionary definition of whining.

marino.eccher
marino.eccher

@T.Christian It was also really off-base. The quarterbacking has been muddled, but the Vikings are bad this year because the defense has been rancid.

AlisonWestbrooke
AlisonWestbrooke

@luvfoozball The Lions had immediate concerns in other positions that had to be addressed....and they did that with each of their draft picks in 2013. They were just lucky that Fauria was still available at the end.

josef918
josef918

@LeeMorrell I gotta say...I just don't get this one.  'I overlooked the stat line' doesn't even begin to explain it.

RCH
RCH

@touseyd Whiteboys cant be fined for dancing because whiteboys can't dance.

thomasoverley
thomasoverley

@touseyd Hey race Baiter every single one of them can and could dance while getting into the End Zone and many of them did and do, its the things they did BEYOND that like pulling out the sharpie ect..  Hate when some idiot finds a way to bring race into a story where there is none

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@touseyd Follow the link to Fauria's dancing. He spends like five seconds celebrating. No taunting. No obscene gestures. No lifting up his shirt to reveal some sort of message. There are rules about this sort of stuff, and if you think that Ochocinco and T.O. didn't willingly violate them, you're kidding yourself. There are plenty of touchdowns scored every Thursday, Sunday and Monday by black players who do a little dance and don't get penalized for it. Don't try to draw some sort of racial lines based on the fact that a few guys get hit for breaking the rules.

donald5
donald5

@touseyd You will find that your whiny racial tirade does not hold much water when you look at what they were fined for.  They get fined for using props you moron.

thomasoverley
thomasoverley

@Mike26 could not agree more, love MMQB but his constant pats obsession makes it tough at times

MicahThoughtlife
MicahThoughtlife

@marino.eccher @T.Christian Yeah exactly, the point about the quarterbacking is moot because, hey, it wasn't stellar last year either. Seemed to me the questioner was asking what's different, not what's the same. So yeah I agree the slide on defense would have been a better point to make.

texpete
texpete

@RCH @touseyd You know all this dance, celebration stuff did get out of hand at one time.  I think it was sometime between when I loved watching football, and now, but seriously isn't time we admit it is almost biologically impossible not to dance in the end zone?  Let me lay some (mostly true, I guess) knowledge on you about the body.

 Picture this, a player gets the ball, suddenly his brain sends a quick FYI to his sympathetic nervous system, "man the adrenals boys this could get ugly".  When all of a sudden the player breaks into the open and the brain says "Holy crap there are 8 300 lb men chasing us. Brain to adrenals kick it in boys we are in "fight or flight" mode and it looks like we're going with flight.  Give me all your adrenaline and keep it coming.  Adrenals to brain "I'm givin' ya all we've got captain." Heart pumping every ounce of blood to the muscles adrenaline all over that darn place, biologically speaking it is a mess. Brain screaming "ahhh we're all gonna die, we're gonna die give us more adrenaline." 
When all of a sudden, the brain says, "Hey we stopped?  Why did we stop? I mean we crossed this white line and we're not gonna die?"  However the muscles and heart haven't come to the same conclusion.  It takes a while for the brain to blow the all clear, and call his pal the parasympathetic "Yeah this is the brain, this dude is not getting that he needs to calm down, give him a big dose of Acetylcholine before he starts dancing or waving or something.  That is not appropriate behavior after having just escaped with your life and after reaching an objective. I say again INAPPROPRIATE!"  Meanwhile the poor guys legs and arms are like, "Oh now you want the librarian?  Killer on that side, Dewy Decimal this side?." Well too bad, because the feet just left and we are moon walking and then doing the salsa before that stupid brain stops us.  

It is a true battle of biology and it is difficult to predict the winner.  It's like neurotransmitter Texas Hold em, and sometimes your body just goes all in.

Meanwhile in the stands and at home we didn't do a darn thing, and we cannot sit down.  Us fat guys with wearing his jersey are high fiving, doing little living room, dances, heck most of us will even kiss a baby or it's momma if one is close by.  We have no skills, and as for hormones, the room goes silent when those Low T commercials come on.  All the while, the guy who did all the work which we are currently taking credit for, what does he get?  A pat on the butt from 40 guys on the sideline.  Now I know dancing is a violation, but I ask you would you feel more violated dancing with a 3 teammates or having 40 of them pat you on the butt?

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@touseyd Come to think of it, didn't Ochocinco actually, like, budget end zone fines, knowing that he'd incur them for the stuff he'd do? I seem to remember PK chastising him for that by essentially saying that he can do whatever he wants with his money, but wouldn't it be better spent on, like, charity?

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@thomasoverley @Mike26 This was all over the board Monday and I actually went back and took a look at this year's regular-season columns. The Pats were only really touched on in one column before this week's. PK's written about the Bengals more in 2013.

SpartanTarget
SpartanTarget

@ericwkillian @SpartanTarget @touseyd Retired player funds and other stuff the league's worked out with the Player's Association. There are still a lot smarter ways to give to charity (like picking your own) and it ain't like Ochocinco was intentionally getting penalized because he loved to give.

BostonTim
BostonTim

@SpartanTarget @thomasoverley @Mike26 But it's not like Brady conducted an epic 70 yard drive with 73 seconds left and no timeouts, finishing with a gorgeous 17 yard TD pass to his undrafted rookie FA to win the Biggest game of the against year against one of the hottest and best teams  in football, right.  Can't he find something worth writing about?  Whaaaa Whaaaa Whaaaa!

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