The Detroit Lions shored up their tight end position this offseason. Although the top of the depth chart is set, a late round rookie could surprise.
It could be argued that the Detroit Lions‘ weakest positional group in 2018 was at tight end. With the trio of Luke Willson, Michael Roberts and Levine Toilolo unable to fill the void left by former first-round bust Eric Ebron, the Motor City was in desperate need for an overhaul at the position.
So not only did the Lions land one of the top tight ends in free agency by signing former Pittsburgh Steelers’ veteran Jesse James, but Detroit also elected to use their top-ten first round pick on Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson. The eighth overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft was the highest rated tight end prospect in years. And the Lions are hoping Hockenson can be the star player other first-rounders like Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew weren’t.
With both Hockenson and James on the depth chart, the Lions appeared to be set at the position for the foreseeable future. Then came the seventh round of the draft. And at pick No. 224, Georgia tight end Isaac Nauta was somehow still on the board. Because of his perceived value, and despite the investment already made at the position, the Lions simply felt Nauta was too good to pass up.
As a result, Detroit might have landed themselves a real late-round steal. Draft expert Lance Zierlein actually named Nauta one of his three favorite prospects selected in the seventh round via NFL.com. Here’s Zierlein’s explanation as to why …
"” … I love this pick in Round 7 because [Nauta] plays faster than he tested, he has great hands and I can see him competing for a role as a move tight end or H-back when Detroit looks to create matchup problems out of two-tight-end sets.”"
Coming to Georgia, Nauta was rated as the top tight end prospect in the country. He posted 29 receptions for 361 yards and three touchdowns his freshman season for the Bulldogs. After a disappointing sophomore campaign, Nauta rebounded to record 30 catches for 430 yards and three scores last season.
The 6-foot-3, 244-pound rookie tight end will have to compete for a place on the depth chart behind both T.J. Hockenson and Jesse James this summer. But the potential that Isaac Nauta brings to this positional group could be substantial. His performance could help transform what was considered the Detroit Lions’ biggest weakness into it’s biggest strength in less than a year.