Fan uproar about the Detroit Lions consideration of taking a tight end in the first round should be based on the prospect alone, not the team’s draft history.
Typically, the tight end position is one we rarely see taken within the top ten selections of the NFL draft. In fact, in the past ten years, only one tight end has been selected that high. That prospect of course being North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron by the Detroit Lions back in 2014.
Prior to Ebron’s selection, Vernon Davis (2006) and Kellen Winslow II (2004) are the only other tight ends selected in the top ten in the past 23 years. So the thought of the Lions using the eighth overall selection in the upcoming draft on the position seems ludicrous. Especially considering how the careers of both Ebron and fellow tight end Brandon Pettigrew, a 2009 first rounder, ultimately turned out in Motown.
In fact, before Ebron and Pettigrew, the Lions hadn’t drafted a tight end in the first round since 1984. And that player was California’s David Lewis. And he spent just three seasons in the Motor City, never recording more than 28 receptions in a single year.
When you consider that kind of franchise history at the position, plus the fact Detroit just signed former Pittsburgh Steeler Jesse James to be their starter via free agency this offseason, selecting a tight end with their first round selection later this month makes little sense.
That is unless a tight end is the best player available when the Lions’ number is called. And ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay believes Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson could be that kind of prospect. Here’s what McShay told the Detroit Free Press during a conference call this past week.
"“I just think T.J. is one of the 10 best players in this draft. And I know [the Lions] haven’t had the greatest success drafting tight ends early with Pettigrew and Eric Ebron … I think he’s one of the more complete football players in this draft. I just don’t think you can go wrong with Hockenson.”"
Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn doesn’t appear to be the type of football executive that will allow the franchise’s troubled draft history at the position to impact his selections. If Quinn and company believe a tight end is the best player available and can help them win ball games, I have zero doubt they’d pull the trigger on that selection. Even as high as No. 8.
Last season, the 6-foot-5, 251-pound Hockenson recorded 49 receptions for 760 yards and six scores in 13 games for Iowa. He also had one rushing touchdown. NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein compared Hockenson to the Kansas City Chiefs’ four-time Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce.