Identifying 6 Nate Burleson Replacement Options for the Detroit Lions

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Joseph Fauria (internal)

Sep 22, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Detroit Lions tight end Joseph Fauria (80) catches a touchdown pass against the Washington Redskins in the second quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the Lions found themselves short on wide receivers, as Nate Burleson had broken his leg and Ryan Broyles had torn his ACL by the last month of the season. With no receivers of note left on the roster after Calvin Johnson, the Lions turned to receiving tight end Tony Scheffler to take more snaps in the slot and act more like a full-time receiver.

Scheffler promptly vanished, with 15 catches for 150 yards in his last four games. Scheffler (and Brandon Pettigrew) will hear the call again this year, but will they answer?

Probably somewhat, but Scheffler has never really come into his own as a consistent receiving tight end, and Pettigrew’s problem with drops is starting to look incurable. Odd as it seems, Fauria looks more and more like the Lions’ most reliable option at tight end.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Fauria is going to immediately move into Burleson’s vacated starting role. Rather, this is merely an observation that Fauria’s solid early performance combined with Burleson’s injury is likely to open up more opportunities for him in the offense. At this point, his role can only grow.

Risk: Low

The Lions aren’t looking to move Fauria to receiver or anything. Burleson’s injury might just mean more looks for Fauria earlier than expected. He deserves it anyway, given his performance.

Reward: Moderate

There’s rarely harm in giving rookies playing time if they’re performing well. The game experience will be good for him, though Fauria isn’t nimble enough to do what Burleson does between the 20s. He can, however, create mismatches with his height.