The Detroit Lions boasted one of the NFL’s best offenses in the 2022 season. Led by quarterback Jared Goff and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, the Lions’ offense ranked fifth in points scored and fourth in yards gained this past season.
The team holds playoff aspirations for the upcoming 2023 season, and with the offseason in full swing, Detroit looked to reload its offense. Johnson turned down head coach interviews, Goff returns for his third season in the Motor City and the team made small but effective upgrades to the offense. On the defensive side, the Lions undertook a nearly complete overhaul to the secondary and other positions of need.
Detroit found a reliable stop-gap option at right guard in Graham Glasgow. He returns for his second stint in Detroit. Marvin Jones Jr. is another former Lion returning for another go around. He replaces the outgoing D.J. Chark.
The Lions’ biggest offensive acquisition in free agency was running back David Montgomery. The former Chicago Bear joins the Lions after last year’s starter, Jamaal Williams, turned down the team’s contract offer. Williams signed with the New Orleans Saints.
With these acquisitions being at worst lateral moves, the Lions are set to enter the 2023 season with an offense just as potent as in the 2023 season. Goff will have one of the league’s better-supporting casts. His offensive line is one of the best in the NFL. Jameson Williams, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jones form a solid receiving trio. Montgomery and D’Andre Swift combine to make a more than capable backfield.
However, there are more improvements that could be made. The team could afford to add another receiver through the draft, especially with Jones on a one-year deal. More importantly, the Lions need to make an upgrade in the tight end room.
The Detroit Lions need more talent at tight end
After trading away former first-round pick T.J. Hockenson to the Minnesota Vikings this past season, the Lions turned to Brock Wright, Shane Zylstra and James Mitchell. Wright flashed some potential. The highlight of his season was a 51-yard catch-and-run touchdown against the New York Jets in week 15. Wright finished the season with 216 yards and four touchdowns. Zylstra and Mitchell had their moments as well.
The tight end by committee approach to end the 2023 season worked out for the Lions, but in the team needs to add more upside to the tight end room to find long-term success. Wright is currently slated to be the team’s week one starter. Maybe he takes the next step in his development this upcoming season, but that is not something the Lions should rely on. Wright, Zylstra and Mitchell all played admirably, but there was still meat left on the bone in tight end play last season.
The 2023 NFL Draft is stocked with talent at the tight end position, and the Detroit Lions would be smart to take advantage of that depth. The team owns eight picks in the upcoming draft, including four in the top 60. Selecting a tight end does not immediately unseat Wright as the starter, but it gives him competition. Taking a guy with upside could provide the Lions with a long-term answer at tight end.
The top tight end prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft
Dalton Kincaid and Michael Mayer make sense if the Detroit Lions target tight end in the first round
The Lions hold the sixth and 18th selections in the first round of the draft. While tight end is out of the question with the sixth pick, 18 is the first selection the team could reasonably target the position.
Utah’s Dalton Kincaid and Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer sit at the top of most tight end boards.
The 23-year-old Kincaid is possibly the best receiving threat of all the tight ends in this class. He is a good route runner who does a great job adjusting to balls in contested catch situations. Kincaid is not an elite blocker or even necessarily a good one, but he is serviceable enough. He would provide Goff with a high-end receiving threat to complement Detroit’s solid receiving corps.
Mayer is a well-rounded tight end. He may not be at the same level as Kincaid, but he is a receiving threat in his own right. He offers much more reliability as a blocker as well. The 21-year-old plays a physical brand of football in both blocking and receiving. He does not possess great speed, but he makes up for it with his strength. If the Lions are looking for a tight end who can take on defensive ends in the run game and find creases over the middle of the field as a receiver, Mayer is the perfect fit.
Sam LaPorta, Luke Musgrave and Darnell Washington are great values with one of the Detroit Lions’ second-round picks
Odds are the Lions are not targeting tight end in the first round. The team’s need for an interior defensive lineman and the lure of the top prospects at sixth overall will likely entice the team in a different direction. The best value at tight end for Detroit will come in the second round where the team owns the 48th and 55th picks.
Unless Kincaid or Mayer slip, Iowas’ Sam Laporta, Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave and Georgia’s Darnell Washington are the best options available in the second round.
LaPorta enjoyed a standout performance during the scouting combine where he ran a 4.59 40-yard dash. He offers a combination of speed and refined route-running ability that makes him one of the best receiving threats in this tight end class. He is a decent blocker but has plenty of room for improvement in that area.
Musgrave offers a combination of size and speed that is unmatched in this year’s tight end class. The 6-6 Musgrave is too fast for linebackers to cover and too big for most defensive backs. He is a good vertical threat who needs to refine his route running. Musgrave coasts through cuts and breaks at times. He is not the best blocker, but he has the size and frame to develop to be reliable enough.
Washington is a massive 6-6, 270-pound tight end. He has the size and ability to dominate as a run blocker and is a mismatch against smaller linebackers and most defensive backs in coverage. Washington can take the Lions’ run game to the next level. He is practically an extra offensive lineman in the run game. He needs to refine his technique as a blocker, but the physical tools are all there. As a route runner, he is not amazing, but he has reliable enough hands and is difficult to take down in the open field.
Names to monitor outside the first two rounds: Tucker Kraft, Luke Schoonmaker, Davis Allen, Zack Kuntz and Will Mallory
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