In what will be an ongoing series, I will be taking a look at each position on the Detroit Lions roster and examine where things stand, who has the best shot at making the final 53-man roster, and whether or not we improved in this area. Next up, tight end.
The Eric Ebron selection was an incredibly polarizing pick for the Detroit Lions in the 2014 NFL Draft. I think the most important thing behind this pick is that fans need to understand that Ebron isn’t your every day traditional tight end. It would be more accurate to just call him an “offensive weapon”.
He may never get paid like a wide receiver, but he sure does play like one. Last year, Ebron lined up as a slot receiver for 71.74 percent of his snaps with UNC.
Ebron will be used similar to how Jimmy Graham has been used for the New Orleans Saints, and Brandon Pettigrew will most likely see most of his time as an in-line blocking tight end.
Chances of making final roster: 100% (drafted in the first round for a reason)
The Lions and Pettigrew agreed to terms on a four-year, $16 million contract early this offseason. Pettigrew has had a rough career dealing with ball security issues, but he really had a solid second half of the season last year, and ended up with one of the lowest drop rates for the Lions.
With Eric Ebron on board, there will be less pressure on Pettigrew in the passing game, who has been much more effective as a blocker throughout his career.
Chances of making final roster: 100% (new long-term deal, not going anywhere)
When Big Joe Fauria isn’t practicing dances from 90’s boy bands in front of his mirror, he’s probably catching touchdowns for the Lions.
Fauria caught seven touchdowns on only 18 catches and 30 targets last year. He was nearly unstoppable in the redzone and many wondered why Scott Linehan wouldn’t expand his role on offense.
It’s possible that Fauria may not have a bigger role on offense this year either, but if Joe Lombardi decides to go by the Saints playbook like he says he will, then there will be a lot of catches to spread around at the tight end position, and Fauria will probably get his one way or another.
Chances of making final roster: 100% (redzone specialist)
After the Lions moved Michael Williams from tight end to offensive tackle, it freed up some space to add a couple more tight ends for depth purposes. The Lions are stacked as it is at TE with Ebron, Pettigrew and Fauria, so guys like Jacob Maxwell and Jordan Thompson are nothing more than camp bodies at this point.
Maxwell was signed as an undrafted free agent this year, and will be fighting for a spot on the practice squad.
Chances of making final roster: 0% (too much depth at the position)
Thompson worked out for the Lions prior to the NFL Draft and was signed a week later. He tried out for the Kansas City Chiefs last year but wasn’t signed, and it’s pretty unlikely that he’ll find a place on the final roster for the Lions.
Chances of making final roster: 0% (see above)
Did They Improve?
Brandon Pettigrew will be used much like Benjamin Watson was used for the Saints last year. He will be asked to block more and let Ebron take over as the primary tight end target, and we’ll often see them running routes together. Ebron is an immediate improvement in the passing game, but he’ll need to work on his blocking techniques to become a more complete player.
If Ebron can live up to the hype surrounding him, then the Lions could end up having one of the best group of tight ends in the NFL.