The Detroit Lions got a pleasant surprise in the form of undrafted free agent Joseph Fauria‘s rookie season. Used primarily as a red zone target in 2013, Fauria very well may have been in line for a bigger role in the Lions offense until they drafted Eric Ebron earlier this month.
The Ebron pick has left many wondering what it means for Fauria. Would the Lions look to trade him?
It’s not just Lions fans asking that question – it came up in a recent New England Patriots chat on ESPNBoston.com.
"Could Joseph Fauria be available from the Lions since they drafted Eric Ebron and already have Brandon Pettigrew? Perhaps a sixth or seventh rounder could get Christian’s big nephew in a Patriots jersey?"
The Patriots have coveted the position in recent years as they’ve used the mismatches their versatile tight ends create to murder opposing defenses. Mike Reiss, with the input of ESPN Lions beat writer Michael Rothstein, answered the question like this:
"I don’t see the Lions trading Fauria for anything less than a high-round pick at this point. They’ll still find a way to use him, as Fauria showed he was a solid red zone threat in 2013. A team can never have enough depth. Along these lines, I also asked ESPN.com Lions reporter Michael Rothstein for his opinion on the topic. His response: “Fauria, for now, is mostly a red zone threat. His size, his vertical and his extremely good hands make him a valuable target in the end zone for Matthew Stafford. Using him in that way also takes some pressure off of Calvin Johnson in the red zone. Fauria’s goal is to be used more as a full-field tight end, but that did not materialize in his rookie year all that often. It looked like it would have this season, but the drafting of Eric Ebron changed that to an extent. His role is still somewhat to be determined in 2014, but he remains a red zone threat. If he can improve his blocking, he’ll likely see even more time.”"
Reiss and Rothstein likely get in right in that there are still situations where the Lions can benefit from having Fauria on the roster. His role will look a lot like his role as a rookie where he sees plenty of opportunities in the red zone but is seldomly used between the 20s.
The question presupposes that the presence of Pettigrew and Ebron squeezes out Fauria, or at least devalues him to the point the Patriots might be able to steal him away from the Lions. That might make sense in the context that Fauria is clearly the third tight end on the roster, it doesn’t consider that each player brings something different to the table. Ebron and Fauria won’t line up in-line like Pettigrew, Pettigrew and Fauria won’t give the Lions a dynamic pass catcher in the open field, and Pettigrew and Ebron don’t excel in the red zone like Fauria.
With Fauria still in the plans, don’t look for the Lions to trade him any time soon.