Each Tuesday of the NFL season NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang will identify his Rookie of the Week. To qualify, the first-year professional player must have played a significant role in a competitive NFL game, demonstrating not just flashes of talent but the potential to emerge as a legitimate long-term standout. The player's draft status -- whether as a former first round pick or undrafted free agent -- does not apply.
NFL Rookie of Week 5: Detroit Lions' TE Joseph Fauria
The Detroit Lions have invested multiple draft picks and millions of dollars in veteran free agency attempting to find a secondary pass-catcher to take the pressure off superstar Calvin Johnson.
As it turns out, an undrafted free agent is out-playing them all.
Former UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria scored his third, fourth and fifth touchdowns of the young NFL season Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, helping to spark a comeback victory for the Lions, who are tied with the Chicago Bears for first place in the NFC North at 4-2.
Scoring touchdowns is nothing new for the 6-foot-8, 260-pound Fauria, who caught 20 touchdowns over his final three seasons with the Bruins after transferring from Colorado. Like his uncle, former NFL tight end Christian Fauria, Joseph's great size, leaping ability and strong hands make him a superb red zone target.
He used these skills to catch a lob from Matthew Stafford over Browns' defensive back Johnson Bademosi to give the Lions an early 7-0 lead with 3:28 remaining in the first quarter. Fauria lined up wide against Bademosi, drawing one on one press coverage and simply using his height advantage to snatch the ball out of the air over the 6-0, 200-pound defender.
Split out in the slot of a four-receiver set on his second score of the game, it was Fauria's speed and ability to track the ball over his shoulder that were best demonstrated later. Drawing linebacker Craig Robertson, Fauria initially took the advantage over the defender with good initial quickness. He gave a strong shoulder fake, which slowed the linebacker and created just enough separation for Stafford to loft the ball over the top. Fauria's body control and hand-eye coordination were once again demonstrated as he twirled to snatch the ball out of the air as Robertson and two other Cleveland defenders closed. The touchdown, which came with 10:35 remaining in the game, gave Detroit their first lead since Fauria's first quarter score.
Fauria's third score came off another perfectly thrown pass from Stafford and against a third Cleveland defender. Stafford drilled a back-shoulder fade, which Fauria was able to snatch away despite tight coverage from respected safety T.J. Ward to give Detroit its final score of the game.
Stafford was the difference in this contest but the rookie tight end certainly deserves acknowledgement. Fauria's efforts were especially critical to the Lions' win considering that Stafford's typical favorite receiver, Johnson, was limited by a knee injury (and stellar play from Browns' cornerback Joe Haden), catching just three passes for 25 yards.
Rookie of the Week Archives:
Week One: Carolina Panthers' DT Star Lotulelei
Week Two: Houston Texans' WR DeAndre Hopkins
Week Three: New York Jets' QB Geno Smith
Week Four: Buffalo Bills' ILB Kiko Alonso
Week Five: Green Bay Packers' RB Eddie Lacy