Fantasy analyst points to sneaky offensive need for Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions don’t have any big needs on the offensive side, but addressing this sneaky one could unlock a ceiling that was mostly unrealized in 2022.
If you were listing the Detroit Lions offseason needs, you would start on defense (cornerback, linebacker, interior defensive line) and reach a little further to see some potential reinforcements needed for the offense (right guard, running back?, wide receiver under certain circumstances).
After trading T.J. Hockenson at last season’s deadline, the Lions still set the franchise record for touchdowns by tight ends (12). After accounting for the three Hockenson had prior to being traded, it was a committee approach (Shane Zylstra-four, Brock Wright-four, James Mitchell-one). Wright and Zylstra between them (29) barely exceeded Hockenson’s catch total in seven games as a Lion (26).
Not than anyone noticed a lack of all-around production at tight end. The Lions’ offense was one of the best in the league, and made coordinator Ben Johnson into a quick head coaching candidate.
But as Johnson eyes making some adjustments heading toward next season, adding talent in spots where it lacks shouldn’t be totally off the radar.
Analyst points to sneaky need for Detroit Lions to upgrade at tight end
Ian Hartitz of Pro Football Focus (subscription required) outlined one key need for each NFL team, with a bit of a fantasy angle. For the Lions, he pointed to tight end (h/t to Heavy.com).
"No disrespect to Brock Wright or Shane Zylstra, but both are exclusive rights free agents and also not exactly overly proven commodities. Overall, nobody has fewer 2023 dollars devoted to the position. The team needs to address the T.J. Hockenson loss and seemingly has enough cap room to do so. Credit to the league’s reigning fifth-ranked scoring offense for staying productive without Hockenson, but at a minimum, work needs to be done,”"
Hartitz may have started with “No disrespect to Brock Wright or Shane Zylstra”, but it’s where he ended up in suggesing the Lions need to devote more to the tight end position.
While some analysts have tried to force-feed the idea of the Lions taking Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer in the first round, it doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense. And that’s not a knock on Mayer, who is the top tight end in this draft for many analysts and a very likely first-round pick.
On a pure talent level, the Lions do need to upgrade on Wright/Zylstra. Mitchell is stil largely an unknown quantity moving toward his second season. A big splash in free agency is patently unlikely, thought someone like Evan Engram might be a nice fit.
The Lions could have interest in a free agent tight end like Hayden Hurst or Austin Hooper. A potential cap casualty like Gerald Everett should land on their radar. A Day 2 draft pick may make sense.
The Lions are unlikely to go tight end in the first round, or sign an expensive free agent tight end before that. But if they find a way to upgrade the position in a meaningful and immediately impactful way, the ceiling for the offense next season would automatically be raised.