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Detroit Lions tight ends preview

Detroit Lions tight ends

The tight end position is a potential area of need for the Detroit Lions. Depending on the new offensive philosophy, the Detroit Lions could add another pass-catching threat or a blocking tight end to the roster during free agency or the draft.

Eric Ebron has been a bust in the eyes of many fans. He has had some decent production and still has potential to grow in the new offensive system. However, taking him 10th overall in the draft, ahead of players like Odell Beckham Jr., has left fans scratching their heads. Was he really worth a top-10 pick?

coaching

Coaching is key when it comes to championship teams and systems. With the potential of a New England style offense coming to Detroit, it makes sense that there should be an increase in tight end involvement in the offense.

The man coaching the tight ends this coming season is Chris White. He comes to Detroit from the University of Connecticut where he worked as the senior quality control research and director of football.

White has been coaching in some capacity since 1996 (UNLV) and got his first NFL gig in Minnesota (2009-12) as a special teams assistant.

CURRENT Tight Ends ON ROSTER

Eric Ebron

Ebron was drafted 10th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. This has been a hot-topic debate among Lions fans. He has shown flashes of great athleticism and playmaking ability and has produced solid numbers for a tight end in his career.

In his first four years, he has 186 receptions and 2,070 yards and 11 touchdowns. More than half of that production has come in the past two years as well (114 catches, 1,285 yards and five touchdowns).

The struggle for most fans comes solely from the high selection in the draft. Rob Gronkowki type stats are what many fans would expect from someone taken so high.

However, it is like comparing apples and oranges to compare Ebron’s stats to Gronkowski’s. The systems have been totally different, and Gronk has been the focal point of New England’s offense while Ebron is utilized as a third or sometimes even fourth option.

With an increased role in the offense, Ebron may very well prove his worthiness of that top-10 pick. Drops are often mentioned with him, however, he only had three drops last season. For what it’s worth, Jimmy Graham had seven drops last season.

Darren Fells

Detroit Lions tight ends
Darren Fells (Photo from Associated Press)

Darren Fells began his career in sports as a professional basketball player overseas. He then began playing in the NFL in 2014.

He is now 31 years old, but only has four years of wear on his NFL tires. He spent the first three years of his career in Arizona prior to joining the Lions in 2017.

Lack of reps limited his production last season. Fells had 17 receptions for 177 yards and three touchdowns.

If the offense does indeed feature the tight end position more, it would be a surprise if these numbers do not at least double next season, unless he loses reps to Michael Roberts or a new tight end currently not on the roster.

Michael Roberts

Detroit Lions tight ends
Michael Roberts (Photo by Mike Mulholland/mlive.com)

In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Lions selected Michael Roberts (127th overall) out of Toledo. He has solid playmaking ability and extremely large hands. The size of his hands makes for a promising red-zone threat with a large frame (6-foot-5, 265 pounds). His hands measured 11 ¾ inches, larger than an NFL football’s width (11 ¼ inches).

 

2018 DRAFT and free agency options

Detroit Lions tight ends
Gesicki makes a touchdown catch against USC. (Photo by Jayne Kamin USA Today Sports)

Mike Gesicki from Penn State is an intriguing prospect and is the only tight end worth adding based on the Lions’ needs and when he may be available to draft. His athleticism was on full display in Indianapolis during the combine last week.

He ran the fastest 40 time for tight ends at 4.54 seconds. His 22 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press was good for second place. His vertical was also the highest among all tight ends at 41.5 inches. He finished first in every other combine test as well, which included broad jump (10 feet, 9 inches), three-cone drill (6.76 seconds), 20-yard shuttle (4.1 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.3 seconds).

This performance was off the charts and may hurt the Lions’ chances to get him in the third or fourth round as he was projected to be picked in the third or fourth round before the combine. Some projections have him going as high as the second round now, and the Lions may not value the tight end position as a second-round need.

Jimmy Graham is a big name available to pick up. There will be several suitors for his services. Projections have him going to many different places, including Houston, New Orleans, New England and Denver. The Lions could just as well decide to bring him in as another pass-catching threat.

It worked out pretty well the last time they brought in a pass catcher from Seattle (Golden Tate). His large frame would create another option for Stafford and help open things up outside for the receiving corps.

 

Featured image by Daniel Mears, Detroit News

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