The Detroit Lions unexpectedly added another offensive lineman to the active roster when the team was Drew Forbes claimed from the waiver wire on Monday. Forbes joins the Lions after being waived by Cleveland Browns on some of the changed crew on this team.
Forbes joins the Lions and rejoins the man who drafted him in the sixth round in 2019 at Cleveland, Lions special assistant John Dorsey. I was at Brown’s boot camp for a few practices that year and watched Forbes firsthand, and did it again in the summer of 2021 for a few workouts.
What does black get in Forbes?
To start, let’s go back to Dorsey’s days as GM Brown. Dorsey was immediately drawn to Forbes as an FCS-level prospect in southeastern Missouri. Despite the lack of national attention, Forbes garnered something of a cult following among hardcore OL draftees due to his outstanding sport and physical dominance.
Dorsey was a major fan. He personally attended Forbes Pro Day in 2019. Forbes, who is 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds off, didn’t get any invitations to the post-season game or a trip to his scouting group.
Dorsey and scouts from a handful of other teams – one of them the Los Angeles Rams, whose scouting division is now run – Lions general manager Brad Holmes – had a great workout. Forbes ran a 4.87 40-yard dash, 30-inch vertical jump and a great short shuttle and 3-cone drilling performance.
Forbes was even Theme for a Sports Illustrated feature called “Prospect X”which offered a glimpse into the unknown prospect of a small school and the growing hype around it.
This is what Dorsey said after drafting Forbeswho played left tackle in college but was featured in Cleveland on right tackle or right guard,
“He’s got incredible sportsmanship, so why don’t you try it on the left or the right? If that doesn’t work, go inside, I mean that’s how you do offensive line. Let them see what their normal is and then move on. He’s a very athletic and talented guy.” And mature, persistent and intelligent.”
At his junior training camp in 2019, Forbes competed for the starting RG position with the Browns. Sportsmanship was palpable, but so was the lack of high-level expertise and artistic luster. The competition with Forbes ended, ironically, when he injured his knee in Detroit in the final pre-season game and went to IR after initial roster cut-offs (Brown fired provisionally from LT Greg Robinson to sneak into Forbes’ list of 53 men).
Forbes returned late in the year but played sparingly and only on special teams. He was only active for two games. Then came 2020.
year of the epidemic. Limited interactions, no hands-on or training. Forbes has opted out for this season, and is one of four Browns players to exercise their option to sit 2020 without any penalty due to COVID-19.
When Forbes returned in 2021, everything changed in Cleveland. White Teller, who traded the brown from Buffalo when Forbes was injured, quickly evolved into an all-pro-caliber right-hander. Dorsey went, as well as OL coach James Campen and coach Freddy Kitchens. Brown changed his offensive tactics to a more out-of-area operating style, and the green-horned Forbes didn’t adapt quickly.
Cleveland played briefly with Forbes back trying to interfere, but couldn’t handle the game’s speed on the edge. Despite being an impressive athlete, Forbes’ physical prowess didn’t easily translate to the NFL field. He’s become a bit of a guard/tweener – not strong enough to play guard, not fast enough to play interference. He was a reliable fit, no more, in pass protection when on guard. Forbes really struggled to engage targets in the running game and had a bad tendency to go straight up and lose leverage when he does.
It wasn’t bad. But Forbes was technically crude and didn’t progress nearly as quickly as hoped for. After winning a playoff and putting him entirely in place, Forbes’ development wasn’t a priority for Cleveland and it showed.
The Browns mixed up several new offensive linemen and Forbes didn’t really progress after the pull-out season. A lost year of delegates and then another knee injury in 2021 hampered his development
Now, Forbes is back with the man who once saw a potential start in him in Dorsey. The Lions have an exceptional OL coach Hank Fraley, who did an amazing job developing young talents like (former Browns C) Evan Brown and UDFA goalkeeper Tommy Kraemer a year ago. The combination of young athlete confidence and technical skill development is worth a try for a Lions. But Forbes starts at the bottom of the depth chart at both the guard and the tackle.
Personally, I hope Black will try to get Forbes to speak up in processing. It lacks the great length the team prefers, but the physical tools are there to handle pass protection in the swing role. Detroit is weaker in backup from the goalkeeper as well.