Detroit Lions Positional analysis: Tight End

Well that was a scary couple days, right guys? According to Ian Rapoport Eric Ebron has gone from blowing out his Achilles, to dancing the night away, to being rumored dead, to now having “a pretty decent sprain”. Someone stop the madness before I have a heart attack and join the great mediocre to slightly above par sports writers in the sky. Also, really, NFL? You can’t paint a damn field without making it dangerous to the health of the players? That’s literally insane. Just how much paint are you putting on to the point where its “congealing and rubberizing” on the grass? Hell you could get a couple of monkeys and a well trained dog to paint a field properly. Clearly the NFL decided to skimp on the dog. Sorry if I seem pissy, this is just a rough time. If you’ve been following the Olympics, the Canadian women’s gymnastics team lost out on the team finals by point one six points. I don’t totally understand the rules so I just spent hours screaming at my TV frustrated and upset. It’s a super emotional moment. Anyways back to football! The tight end position is in a precarious yet very interesting place right now, so lets get into it.

Eric Ebron: It’s safe to say that Ebron has failed to live up to his 10th overall pick at this point but there have been some extremely promising signs. He’s extremely athletic, made some incredible catches, and has stepped up in the occasional crucial moment. At the same time though, he has also had some bouts with poor awareness, had some extremely frustrating drops, and disappeared in several crucial moments. People like to take the easy cop out and say that we should have taken player x, y, or z, but this is a player who is primed for a breakout season and has seen a ton of development over his years in Detroit. He has begun to come into his own as a blocker which was somewhat unexpected, and he’s slowly become a favorite target of Stafford throughout camp thus far until his injury. Without question he’s going to be expected to prove his worth in this, the third year of his rookie contract, and I foresee him doing that quite easily if healthy. It’s difficult to tell just what kind of season he will have at this point based on that rather concerning injury in camp, but all signs point to Ebron not missing much, if any time. Expect him to be a crucial part of the offense this season shooting up the seam to capitalize on stretched, opposing defenses.

2016 projection: 70 receptions, 800 yards, 8 TD’s

Brandon Pettigrew: The much-maligned Brandon Pettigrew is again injured, sitting on the PUP recovering from, guess what? A bum knee again. At times Brandon Pettigrew has been a phenomenal player for us, leading all tight ends in receptions in the 2011 playoff run and at other moments being one of the best blocking TE’s in the league. Unfortunately though, his career has been stunted by a pair of the worst knees in the Midwest not attached to Derrick Rose. At this point in his career, he’s almost exclusively an inline blocker and provides very little in the way of a catching threat, outside of being a last ditch safety valve. This should be his last season in Detroit as he’s a very easy cut in the last year of his contract next season.

2016 projection: 10 receptions, 80 yards, 1 TD

tight end

Cole Wick: One of the biggest surprises in camp, Cole Wick has come out of absolute nowhere to compete for a spot on this team. By absolute nowhere I mean absolute nowhere, because to this day I am still not convinced that the University of Incarnate Word actually exists. There’s a significant chance Cole Wick is a pseudonym that a fan came up with when he found a spare uniform lying around at the facility during an open practice. What I’m saying is there’s a good 75% chance Cole Wick just started acting like he was supposed to be at Lions camp, like they made a mistake or something, and has now become a standout player that could potentially be the week one starter at tight end in the preseason. That’s either a really cool story, or it tells us that we have a horrendous tight end group behind an injured Eric Ebron. In all seriousness he’s got great hands and is super athletic as a pass catching tight end, offering an interesting option as the TE3 for the Lions this year, particularly with Ebron’s injury woes. Expect to see a lot more of Cole Wick in the future if he keeps delivering on this effort in camp.

2016 projection: Makes roster

Matthew Mulligan: The one true, healthy veteran on the roster, Matthew Mulligan is Brandon Pettigrew insurance. They’re basically the same player at this point, the main difference is that one is injured and one isn’t. While I expect Pettigrew to be back in time for the regular season, I wouldn’t be shocked if Mulligan takes his spot if the injury woes keep Pettigrew out longer then expected. In other news Mulligan has now played for one third of the teams in the NFL, so that’s a fun milestone.

2016 projection: Cut

Orson Charles: I think Orson Charles is a poet? Maybe an 1880’s bicycle maker? Regardless there’s no way that he could be a football player, sorry for the typo folks I’ll get to the bottom of this. Quick update I stand corrected, he actually is in fact a football player, what do ya know. He’s a football player that hasn’t played since 2013 so my point kind of stands but hey… the more you know, right?

2016 projection: Cut

Ben McCord: Sensing a trend here, Ben McCord is another no name UDFA player filling out the tight end position for the Lions, and by filling out I mean competing for a spot on the 53 man roster because the TE position is that thin and awful right now. He had a fairly productive season last year at Central Michigan University but this is not a player that should be doing any better then making the practice squad, even with all of the insanity that has happened to date. If he is on the roster to start the year something incredibly awful has occurred and my response article will probably take a while, what with all the drinking I will be doing. That said, McCord has an interesting blend of receiving and blocking ability that might make him worth keeping around for an extended look on that practice squad, and maybe even some regular season action if the injuries continue.

2016 projection: Practice squad

tight end

Adam Fuehne: Meet Brandon Pettigrew 2.0! Not to be confused with the Brandon Pettigrew clone Mathew Mulligan, Adam Fuehne is a younger version of modern day Pettigrew; all the blocking without that pesky upside or intangibles. If we were to describe these young TE’s ceilings from what I’ve seen to date, Cole Wick is like a vaulted cathedral that seems to go on forever while Adam Fuehne is like a sad bachelor’s apartment in the divorced dad part of town. You know exactly what you’re getting with Adam Fuehne and its not all that great. Expect him to take an early exit.

2016 projection: Cut

Tight end final depth chart:

  1. Eric Ebron
  2. Brandon Pettigrew
  3. Cole Wick
  4. Ben McCord (Practice Squad)
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About the Author

Adam Ostermeier
Adam Ostermeier is a staff writer for detroitlionspodcast.com. From Toronto, Ontario, Canada, he has been a fan of the Lions for close to a decade and has a wide range of knowledge and experience with numerous sports. Watch for him on the reddit or send him a tweet, he will answer any of your questions and try not to be smug to the best of his ability.