Detroit Lions: Crockett Gilmore

A coach has been hired. A staff is being filled out. The Detroit Lions' offseason and planning for the 2014 season is officially here.

To start that process, we will look at each position group over the next two weeks, analyze what worked and what didn’t before projecting what could happen between now and training camp in 2014, which is only a mere seven or so months away.

Today the series continues with wide receivers.

Previous positions: Quarterbacks; Running backs; Wide receivers.

2014 free agents: Brandon Pettigrew; Dorin Dickerson (restricted free agent); Matt Veldman (exclusive rights).

The good: After a rough start to the season, Pettigrew ended up having a fairly decent season. He caught 41 passes for 416 yards and two touchdowns, but his main value is in being a dual-purpose tight end. He played in 877 of 962 snaps before injuring his ankle and was a reliable blocker. Joseph Fauria, an undrafted rookie from UCLA, became a sensation early in the season because of his propensity to catch touchdowns -- and then dance after them. While the dancing may have overshadowed some of his actual play, he became a legitimate red zone threat at 6-foot-7. He had 18 catches this season and seven of them were touchdowns. Pettigrew and Fauria did a good job holding on to the ball this season as well. Pettigrew had only four drops -- the lowest total of his career -- and three of them came in the first four games. Fauria had no drops on the season. Dorin Dickerson did fine in limited duty.

The bad: Not too much to say here. Fauria needs to improve as a blocker if he wants to become a true top tight end. He also needs to become a better route runner, but he understands the level of improvement that must come from his rookie season to his second season, where he will likely be looked to more. When Tony Scheffler was with the Lions, he had issues hanging on to the ball. He had three drops in five games before being concussed and eventually released at midseason. Dickerson had two drops in five games and played with a concussion during the home finale against the New York Giants. This is a position with a lot of questions entering 2014.

The money (using 2014 cap numbers from Roster Management System): The Lions have two players under contract for 2014 at the position and both were rookies last season. Fauria, who ended up being a starter by the end of the season, has a cap number of $499,166 and Michael Williams, who was on injured reserve last season, has a cap number of $511,287. The Lions will almost certainly add at least one, if not two, players to this position group. At least one will also be at a higher monetary value than Fauria and Williams.

What Caldwell might favor: Last season in Baltimore, Jim Caldwell carried between two and three tight ends, but it was tough to get a true read because Dennis Pitta was injured for most of the year. Caldwell's time in Indianapolis might be a bigger clue. He carried between three and four tight ends his entire time with the Colts. Usually only one was a main pass-catcher -- often Dallas Clark -- but he also had Jacob Tamme as a blocker. How the Lions treat this spot might be determined by how Caldwell and the front office view Fauria -- as a pass-catcher only or as a guy who could be a complete tight end.

Potential cuts: Probably none. Williams is more of a blocker and Fauria is a pass-catcher. The Lions might not bring back Veldman on an exclusive rights deal, but at this point, that would be it. It’s a thin position group right now.

Draft priority: Medium. Depending on what happens in the first round, the only tight end worth taking there could be Eric Ebron, the 6-foot-4 tight end from North Carolina. A lot of this could depend on what Detroit decides to do with Pettigrew. If the team brings him back, drafting a tight end could turn into a non-issue or at least a late-round one at best. C.J. Fiedorowicz from Iowa and Crockett Gilmore from Colorado State could be late-round options.

Numbers in this post were culled from ESPN Stats & Information and Roster Management System.
The first two of the three major college All-Star games are Saturday and this is the final in-game looks for a lot of players before they head to their various training facilities to prepare for combines and pro days.

And for some players, this will be the last time they play a meaningful football game.

Considering some of Detroit's needs in May's draft, here are some players to watch for the Shrine game (4 p.m. ET, NFL Network) and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2). The big game, the Senior Bowl, is next week.

And a disclaimer: There's a long, long way between now and the draft and these are just a smattering of players who fit profiles of what Detroit might look for.

Shrine Game: (Here's a link to our coverage of the practices this week Insider) (Link to rosters)


Seantavius Jones, Valdosta State (No. 81 West): Listed at 6-foot-3 1/8, 209 pounds. Colleague Steve Muench described him like this in one of his reports this week: "He also has a wide catching radius and can catch the ball away from his frame. One area where he can improve is consistency. He caught the ball with his body more and more as the practice progressed." No. 69 receiver on ESPN's board.

Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina (No. 84 East): Listed at 6-3, 190, Muench describes him as so: "He tracked the ball well, extended his arms as he dove and didn't let the ground jar the ball loose." No. 49 receiver.

Jeremy Gallon, Michigan (No. 80 East): Listed at 5-foot-8, 187. He will be very familiar to Lions fans and has above average leaping ability and hands for his size. No. 65 receiver.

Tight ends:

Crockett Gilmore, Colorado State (No. 8 East): Listed at 6-6, 245. Gilmore is the No. 14 tight end on the ESPN board. Three-year starter for the Rams who caught 43 passes for 553 yards last season.


Max Bullough, Michigan State (No. 44 East): Bullough is another well-known name to Lions fans since he played for the Spartans. Was suspended for the Rose Bowl. Is rated as the No. 4 inside linebacker and No. 94 overall player.

Defensive backs:

Shaquille Richardson, CB, Arizona (No. 5 West): 6-0 1/8, 194. Here's what Muench said about him: "Has 10-inch hands and made it look easy, snatching the ball out of the air during position-specific drills."

Rashaad Reynolds, CB, Oklahoma State (No. 16 West): Here's what Muench wrote about him: "Tracked the ball well on an over-the-shoulder catch during individual drills. Though he slipped transitioning out of his backpedal on one rep during one-on-ones, for the most part, the 5-9 3/4, 191-pound Reynolds showed good balance and fluidity." No. 19 cornerback.

NFLPA Collegiate Bowl (Link to rosters):


Isaiah Burse, Fresno State (No. 80, National): Listed at 6-foot-1, 187 pounds. From Todd McShay Insider: "Burse was a highly productive player for the Bulldogs as one of QB Derek Carr’s top targets. He is a classic slot receiver and return specialist who is really good with the ball in his hands. He stood out as the quickest and most polished among the receivers when it came to plucking the ball and then getting upfield. He showed really quick feet and hands." No. 71 receiver.

Tight end:

Chris Coyle, Arizona State (No. 88, American): Listed at 6-foot-3, 222 pounds. Caught 57 passes for 696 yards and five touchdowns in 2012, followed by 29 catches for 423 yards and four touchdowns this season.

Defensive backs:

C.J. Barnett, S, Ohio State (No. 24 American): Barnett is the No. 12 safety on the board. Listed at 5-11 7/8, 201. Made 152 tackles in his career with four interceptions.

Special teams:

Cairo Santos, K, Tulane (No. 9, National): Santos, rated as the No. 2 kicker on the ESPN board, had a rough 2013 (16-23 field goals) but was perfect in 2012, making all 21 of his attempts.