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Reviewing the Detroit Lions tight ends

4/10/2015

From now until the draft, we’re going to look at each Detroit Lions position group and assess where things stand as offseason workouts begin this month.

Today the series continues with tight end.

Starter: Eric Ebron

Backups: Brandon Pettigrew (will start a lot); Joseph Fauria; Jordan Thompson

What the status of the position group is: Ehh. Eric Ebron, the 10th pick in the 2014 draft, had an underwhelming rookie season -- especially compared to his peers taken from picks No. 11 to No. 15 -- and never really seemed to gain his true footing as a rookie. Tight ends typically take a year to develop, though, so the Lions are banking on Ebron’s development being strong this offseason. Joseph Fauria was injured for a good portion of the season and was barely thrown to when he was available.

Brandon Pettigrew saw his receptions, yards and touchdowns drop for the third straight season after having 83 catches for 777 yards and five touchdowns in 2011. His role drastically changed in 2014, though, and he was essentially a blocking tight end. Jordan Thompson was essentially on the practice squad and a nonfactor.

This is an interesting position group because both Ebron and Fauria possess potential to become difference makers for Matthew Stafford, but both have only shown flashes of that capability thus far.

What needs to happen: Detroit really, really needs Ebron to progress at a strong pace. On the field, the Lions had hoped he would be Stafford’s No. 3 target last season after Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson, but that never materialized. For Detroit to have success, that must happen in 2015. In the world of perception, with Odell Beckham Jr., Aaron Donald, Zack Martin and C.J. Mosley all being available when the Lions took Ebron, they need him to improve considering all four of those players were Pro Bowlers as rookies -- and three of them were at need positions for Detroit either last season or this offseason.

Pettigrew is essentially what he’s going to be at this point for the Lions, but he provides a valuable role. Fauria is a question mark because if he can stay healthy -- ankle issues plagued him last season -- and can continue to improve as a blocker, he provides a unique threat for Stafford with his 6-foot-7 size and reliable hands.

This is likely Detroit’s tight end group for 2015, but the trio needs to be more productive.

Draft priority: Low. If the Lions had more picks, maybe they’d take a tight end, but not now. An undrafted free agent is possible.