2017 Season Position Overview: Depth For Receivers Comes Through For Detroit

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Receivers For Detroit Looked Impressive In 2017, But Always Room For Improvement.

Another year without Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions seem to be doing just fine with receivers on the team. While the leaders are still Marvin Jones and Golden Tate, behind them is where things get interesting. Depth at the receiving position has never been strong for Detroit as Johnson was seen as the only threat and once he went down he never had any help behind him.

The first two years with Johnson were good with Tate as it felt like Detroit finally had a solid number two option, but with the retirement the team suddenly needed help and they got it. This past season was a good year for the receivers on the team with a bright future ahead of them.

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Marvin Jones Took A Step Up In 2017

After signing a five-year $40 million dollar contract with Detroit, wide receiver Marvin Jones was asked to step into the role of Calvin Johnson and be the deep threat for the team. People believed Jones to be overpaid with only two good seasons out of four, but looking at his production and his contract now, it is a steal.

While his 2016 wasn’t horrible, it wasn’t as impressive as fans were expecting. In 2017 though, Jones turned it around and became the number one threat on the offense, finishing with a team-high 1,101 yards on 61 catches for nine touchdowns. Some of his catches were so crazy that you just need to watch this video to see them again.

Jones had a career season and he is only going to get better. New head coach Matt Patricia might let offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter more play calling controls, or he might control the plays himself. Either way, Jones should be a great threat in 2018 again.

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Golden Tate Keeps Being Golden Tate

Ever since arriving in Detroit, wide receiver Golden Tate has been impressive on the team. He did have a down year in 2015, but in three of the four years in Detroit he has over 1,000 yards and some believe Detroit has two, number one wide receivers on their team.

Tate finished the 2017 season with a team-high 92 catches for 1,003 yards and five touchdowns. Tate is still the YAC king and will be for a few more seasons.

Tate will be up for a contract after the 2018 season, and if GM Bob Quinn wants to keep winning, he would be crazy to let him walk away without a contract extension. Tate and Jones together are a good combo for quarterback Matt Stafford and the chemistry is already there.

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Kenny Golladay Shows Promise In Rookie Season

Taking a wide receiver in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft was an interesting move for the team, but a good one none-the-less. Kenny Golladay impressed during the preseason, and against the Arizona Cardinals, he shined bright. While he would be brought back to reality throughout the season, Golladay turned out to be a solid number three receiver for the Lions

Golladay would miss five games due to injury, so that is something to keep note of, but besides that, he finished with 28 catches for 477 yards and three touchdowns.

Golladay is the number three option Detroit has needed for some time. Somebody who can take pressure off of Tate and Jones and make plays when needed. Golladay could someday be a number two or one wide receiver, but for now, he is going to be depth in Detroit as they have two solid starters above him.

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Eric Ebron Had A Tale Of Two Halves In 2017

After picking up his 2018 option, Lions fans had their eyes on the starting tight end. Ever since getting picked at number 10, Ebron has had a target on his back as the front office passed on players like Aaron Donald, and O’Dell Beckham Jr., fans expected the world from him because of the position he was taken in the draft.

The first half of the season was rough for Ebron, dropping passes were his forte and he wasn’t showcasing his set of skills to get noticed. After trade rumors started to develop for the tight end, he turned his act around and became a stud on offense. He would finish the season with 53 catches for 574 yards and four touchdowns.

With his future up in the air as it is now being reported that Ebron is on the trading block, he may not return to Detroit in 2018. If the Lions don’t deal him and keep him on the team in 2018, they could trade him during the season, or let him play out his full contract and let him sign elsewhere in free agency.

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TJ Jones Uprises For Detroit

Marvin Jones wasn’t the only Jones to have a career year in 2017, TJ was the other as he appeared in a career-high 14 games after missing the final two with a shoulder injury that he would need surgery to fix. TJ was a player who has always been banged up in Detroit, but when healthy he can contribute when needed. He did that in 2017.

Jones finished with 30 catches for 399 yards and one touchdown. For a number four wide receiver in the NFL, those numbers aren’t bad. He made some big catches for the team and stepped up when needed as Golladay went down.

Jones is up for a contract extension too, and while he will get a pay raise, it won’t be that massive and the team should be able to bring him back once again. Jones could use 2018 as leverage to other teams that he can be a number three wide receiver on their roster, and that is where Detroit would draw the line and let him walk.

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Darren Fells Was An Unexpected Addition To The Receiving Game

When signing tight end Darren Fells, expectations were just a blocking tight end that could catch the ball if needed, but boy was his role flipped around. While Fells was blocking for a good majority of his time in Detroit, he was showcasing his skills and at one point, fans wanted him to start over Ebron.

Fells would never get to where Ebron was stat wise, and rightfully so as he isn’t that type of tight end, but for the type of tight end he is, he did well catching the ball. Fells finished with 17 catches for 177 yards and three touchdowns.

Fells has interest in returning to Detroit in 2018, and with Ebron possibly getting traded away, Fells could become the starting tight end if the team doesn’t find a replacement for Ebron.

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What About The Others?

The only other two receivers that did anything on the team were wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and tight end Michael Roberts. Abbrederis didn’t play much as the Lions mostly only activated four wide receivers a game and he finished the year with three catches for 44 yards. Abbrederis would later announce his retirement after the 2017 season.

Rookie tight end Michael Roberts didn’t see much action during the 2017 season, finishing with only four catches for 46 yards. He finished the season on a bad note, getting benched for the season finale, but the rookie owned up to the mistake and seems to want to be better in 2018.


Overall, the receiving core for Detroit is a solid base. They have three solid players up front in Marvin Jones, Tate, and Golladay. They have depth in Fells and TJ Jones, and a question mark in Ebron. Depending on what the team does, losing Ebron and getting a weaker player could hurt the offense in the future.

Not re-signing Tate could also hurt their chemistry in the future and Detroit may have to find a replacement for him in free agency or the NFL draft.

For 2017 though, it was a good year all-around and the team has a good foundation and if they play their cards right, they can keep this core stuck together for a good amount of time.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and leave me your thoughts on the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Brandon Knapp
Brandon Knapp is a senior at Central Michigan University, majoring in Journalism, minoring in Sports Management. He was born and raised in the city of Marysville, MI. He also writes for myfantasysportstalk.com and covers the Michigan Wolverines Football team (his other love). Brandon also enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers.