Detroit Lions 2013 Review and Offseason Plan: Tight Ends


Nov 24, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions tight end

Joseph Fauria

(80) catches a pass in the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Today we take a look at how the Detroit Lions tight ends performed during the 2013 season with a little help from the fine folks at Pro Football Focus.

The radar chart below shows the Pro Football Focus grades for the Lions tight ends who played at least 25% of the team’s snaps and compares them to the best, worst and league average ratings. PFF grades each player on each play to produce a massively useful tool for evaluating the totality of a player’s season compared to others at his position.

2013 Season Review
The first thing that struck me when looking at how the PFF ratings charted out is that there is almost the exact same difference from Jimmy Graham to Joseph Fauria to the average to Brandon Pettigrew. In other words, Pettigrew rated out as far away from average as Fauria did from Graham. This is a problem.

In Joseph Fauria, the Lions found a revelation. His role was limited but he capitalized on his opportunities in a big way. On the other hand, the Pettigrew was a disappointment and while he gets credit for his contributions as a blocker in the run game, the PFF ratings don’t agree. 64 tight ends qualify for the main PFF rankings having played 25% of team snaps. In that group, Pettigrew ranks just 48th for his overall run blocking grade. Incidentally, Fauria was 12th.

At this point, Pettigrew is what he is, or more importantly, isn’t what he is not. He isn’t an explosive tight end receiving threat and whatever praise he has received as a blocker is overrated. For every flash of brilliance, there is a moment that leads to the meeting of one’s palm to one’s face.

Offseason Plan
The Lions simply can’t even consider for a second using the franchise tag on Brandon Pettigrew. In fact, don’t even make an offer ahead of unrestricted free agency. Let the market work and if it crashes, maybe there is an opportunity to bring Pettigrew back. The biggest mistake the Lions could make is to overpay. If someone else is, fine.

Assuming Pettigrew doesn’t return, the Lions have some work to do at tight end. Michael Williams returns after spending his rookie season on injured reserve, but think of him more like the new Will Heller than the new Brandon Pettigrew. With Joseph Fauria the new Scheffler+, the Lions still need to add a tight end who can improve on what Pettigrew did, or at least what he was supposed to do.

That likely means spending a draft pick on a tight end and it may need to be a high one. The tenth overall pick might be a tad high for North Carolina’s Eric Ebron but he is a name to watch through the process, particularly if the Lions find a way to trade down a few spots. In the second round, Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be a solution.

Previously: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, wide receivers