When it comes to drafting a tight end in Detroit, a broader view is needed.
Take your mind back to 2011. No, not the fact that the Detroit Lions made the playoffs for the first time in 12 years – though that’s nice to reminisce about. Think back to the combination of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski that the Patriots had. Think back when they ran two tight end sets and had receivers like Wes Welker and Deion Branch in the mix as well. Think of how defenses had trouble defending that Patriots offense. Now think about how that might look in 2019 but with our beloved Lions instead. I know what you’re thinking; we’re not the Patriots, we’ve been down this road with first round tight ends, and we don’t have Wes Welker. All of that is true but hear me out for a minute. The tight end position has been evolving. More and more tight ends aren’t coming out of college limited to only one skill-set. Tight ends are more athletic, and have been for a while now. That athleticism opens up more avenues to which a team can take advantage of the position.
Detroit Lions Tight End Needs Are Big
Yes, this article is about the Detroit Lions drafting a tight end but I am not angling to use the 8th overall pick on one. This is a trade-back scenario so keep that in mind as you read on. We know Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn have made the run game a subject of attention. They worked all offseason to improve that part of the offense. We also know that Patricia wants more of a power run offense with the ability to be flexible and adjust. This is where drafting T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant comes in. Both TE’s can block as well as be receiving threats. This means they can be left in on either passing or running down. The Lions have already signed free agent Jesse James who can both catch and block well. In that scenario the Lions could couple Hockenson or Fant with James and run a two tight end set. With two tight ends who can be on the field in any situation, defenses are left with mismatches and confusion at worst or having to pick their poison at best.
Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Hockenson or Fant, Jesse James, and Kerryon Johnson could all be on the field at the same time. This would keep defenses guessing whether the Detroit Lions are running or passing since the tight ends will be on field in both situations. In a case where the Lions pass the ball, the defense is now tasked with figuring out who to defend out of the aforementioned players. If on the other hand the Lions run the ball, there are a number of strong bodies to help guide Kerryon to his destination. Fant can even line up as a wide receiver, so this adds yet another dimension to the flexibility of the offense. A two tight end set with one of these players as a part of it seems like it would be right up Patricia’s alley. Bevell also has experience working with tight ends in Minnesota and Seattle so that is also something to consider. With the improvements we saw on defense last year, the Lions could be looking at a 5-10th ranked defense and this bruising yet big-play capable offense might just be what Patricia is looking for. So all I say is, if a tight end ends up being the Detroit Lions pick in the first round, it just may not be the end of the world.