Jesse James, Tight End
Considering what they thought they were getting, the 6-7, 250 pound tight end’s first season as a Lion can only be described as a major bust. If anyone could use a mulligan for last year, it’s Jesse James. While playing in all 16 games, James could only muster a fraction of the receiving totals he posted for each of his final three seasons as a Pittsburgh Steeler.
With 16 catches, 142 yards, and no touchdowns, James posted nearly the same stat line as the far less heralded (and far less expensive) Logan Thomas. His production didn’t even approach Levine Toilolo’s from 2018, let alone any of Eric Ebron’s years in Detroit.
He would need to at least double those numbers this season to approach his previous season averages, but even that would do little to justify the hefty free agent the Lions dished out (four years, $23 million, back loaded to cost the team more each year).
Out of the four players listed here though, a massive improvement from James is probably the least crucial to the Lions succeeding. Considering the full roster, he’s probably no higher than eighth or ninth offensive option, so a bounce back season for him likely isn’t as urgent as some of the others below.
Even so, after joining the team with modest stats but a decidedly high price tag, doesn’t it feel like he owes the Lions a career season?
Next man up: The Lions also picked up undrafted rookie Hunter Bryant out of Washington. Scouts were pretty divided on where he stood coming out of college, but slipping out of the draft entirely was a big surprise. Bryant is something of a tight end-receiver hybrid (Michigan people might think of Devin Funchess from a few years back). He’ll be hoping his combination of size (6-2, 250) and relative speed (4.74 in the 40) creates enough defensive mismatches to carve out a roster spot and push for snaps if James falters again.