Detroit May Not Need A New Tight End, But There Are Still Good Prospects.
Tight end isn’t a major need for the Detroit Lions. Tight end Eric Ebron has been inconsistent so far in his career but he has proven that he can be a productive pass catcher. The major issue with Ebron is that he has had trouble staying healthy, which makes having quality players behind him important.
Veteran tight end Brandon Pettigrew was at one time a solid tight end. He hasn’t played a game in 2016 yet but he is expected to get on the field at some point this season. Unless he plays really well when he makes his return he may end up being cut in the offseason.
The current tight ends that are backing up Ebron are Clay Harbor and Matthew Mulligan. They are not the worst players in the world but they could be replaced.
Like I mentioned previously, tight end isn’t a pressing need for the Lions. If they do indeed take one it probably won’t be one of the guys mentioned in this article because they will be long gone by the time the Lions even consider selecting a tight end.
2017 Draft Class Options: Tight End
The 2017 draft class will be a strong one in the tight end department. There a quite a few prospects that could be different makers at the next level.
The three tight ends that will be discussed in this article are Alabama’s O.J. Howard, Michigan’s Jake Butt, and Evan Engram out of Ole Miss.
O.J. Howard- Alabama
Howard has the size (6’6” and 242 pounds) and athleticism needed to be a star tight end at the NFL level. He sometimes gets overlooked in Alabama’s offense because it has so many talented players and usually relies on a strong run game.
NFL teams love to have tight ends with athleticism and Howard has plenty of that. He has very good speed for a guy his size. His route running ability is better than most college tight ends. The Alabama tight end also has long arms which gives him an impressive catch radius.
As a blocker Howard does a good job of shielding off defenders and shows the ability to latch onto linebackers and secondary players down the field, handling them with ease. Also Howard has the benefit of playing for an Alabama team who runs a similar offense to some pro teams so he’ll have experience doing most of the things that he’ll be expected to do.
One negative about Howard is that he needs to add bulk. He lacks the strength needed to be an elite blocker. Also teams will be concerned of his lack of production so that will hurt him a bit.
Jake Butt- Michigan
Let’s just get this out of the way, Butt is a funny last name. However he brings more to the table than a few laughs. At 6’6” and 250 pounds Butt is built to play tight end in the NFL. He’s been a go to target for Michigan as a senior this season.
Butt is a more seasoned player than most tight ends who enter the NFL draft. He does a great job of creating separation using his route running ability as well as his instincts. Also he uses his large frame to attack the ball at its highest point. When he has the ball in his hands he is very hard to tackle because of his size and strength advantage over most of the guys attempting to tackle him.
The Michigan tight end is a solid blocker. Like Howard, Butt plays in a pro style offense at Michigan so he has been able to work on this area more than a lot of college tight ends who play in spread offenses.
One thing that Butt has working against him is that he isn’t an elite athlete. He can’t rely on speed to get open, which hasn’t been a problem for him at the college level but could worry some NFL scouts. Also sometimes he plays with his pad-level too high when he’s blocking. This makes it much easier for defenders to push him around.
Evan Engram- Ole Miss
Engram is smaller than the other two on this list. He is 6’3” and weighs 235 pounds. This season as a senior he has been very productive this season. In the right situation he could be a difference maker at the NFL level as well.
Every team loves having guys who can create mismatches on the field. Engram is too big for most defensive backs and too fast for most linebackers. He is a very good athlete and has natural ball skills. He knows how to run routes and get open. Ole Miss likes to line him up all over the field. Engram will be able to be the type of players that a team can line up in the slot and count on to get open.
The obvious downside of Engrams game is that he doesn’t have the size or strength needed to consistently get the job done as a blocker. He has shown that he is willing to block and isn’t awful.
Engram could end up being a very productive NFL player as long as the team that selects him doesn’t try to mold him into a traditional tight end.