Detroit Lions: Tight end is a clear priority in Motown

Bob Quinn, Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Bob Quinn, Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

After attempting to make a trade for Rob Gronkowski last offseason, will the Detroit Lions look high in the draft to find themselves a quality tight end?

The Detroit Lions have a clear connection with the New England Patriots. General manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia both started their careers as members of the Patriots. And the success they enjoyed during their time in New England is the main reason both in the Motor City.

Patricia and Quinn also know how important the tight end position can be to a franchise and postseason success. They witnessed firsthand the impact future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski had on the Patriots, helping them secure three Super Bowl titles during his tenure.

In fact, Detroit even attempted to acquired Gronk via trade last offseason. But the nine-year veteran threatened to retire rather than leave Foxborough and his quarterback, Tom Brady.

Still, even the attempt to trade for Gronkowski highlights the importance the current regime in Detroit places on the tight end position. And Quinn recently admitted that the team tried to land some bigger names in free agency last year, but they were unsuccessful. If the Lions figure they will be unable to sign an impact player in free agency once again this offseason, they’ll likely look high in the draft to find that tight end.

ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. chose Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson as the Lions’ first-rounder selection (8th overall) in his latest mock draft. Here’s what Kiper told on a recent conference call about the talented Hawkeyes’ tight end.

"“[Hockenson] a complete tight end. He’s not just a great athlete who will catch the ball. He’ll do that, because he is a gifted athlete, but he’ll also block, he’s consistent. He’s a quarterback’s best friend.”"

The Lions’ depth chart at tight end is currently a wasteland. Both Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo are scheduled to be free agents next month. And former fourth-round tight end Michael Roberts has underwhelmed his first two seasons in Motown. Finally, there’s Jerome Cunningham, an undrafted journeyman who played a total of 53 offensive snaps in three games for Detroit last year without recording a single reception.

Lions all-time tight ends in the ‘Tecmo Bowl’ era. dark. Next

With memories of former first-rounder Eric Ebron still haunting Detroit Lions’ fans, choosing a tight end with the eighth overall selection is likely their worst nightmare. But that doesn’t mean T.J. Hockenson isn’t the right choice for Detroit. Especially if he turns out to be the next Gronk.