Monday, October 7, 2013
Will Lions rework TE corps?
By Tom Carpenter
It's hardly a surprise that the Detroit Lions' passing game struggled mightily Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, since they didn't have wide receiver extraordinaire Calvin Johnson in the mix due to a knee injury. All things considered, QB Matthew Stafford did all right, completing 25 of 40 passes (62.6 percent) for 262 yards and zero interceptions to go with a late touchdown. On the other hand, he could have done more had his pass-catchers not failed to live up to that moniker by dropping five passes.
This season, the main stone-handed culprits have been his tight ends. Brandon Pettigrew has dropped two of the 23 passes target for him. That 8.7 percent drop rate is third worst amongst qualified tight ends. Meanwhile, Tony Scheffler has dropped three of his 12 targets, giving him an even worse drop rate of 25 percent. Undrafted free agent Joseph Fauria hasn't dropped a pass this season and has managed to secure two touchdowns on his four receptions, but he wasn't even targeted Sunday, and his long-term upside is debatable.
The future of Pettigrew and Scheffler with the Lions is entirely unclear, because both of them will be free agents at season's end. The fact that Scheffler sports the worst TE drop rate (7.9 percent) and Pettigrew the third worst rate (7.1 percent) over the past three years may convince the Lions that they need to revamp their TE corps during the offseason.
There are a few sure-handed tight ends who will free agents this offseason, including Dennis Pitta, who has the third-best TE drop rate (2.1 percent) over the past three years, and Dustin Keller and Scott Chandler who are tied for 10th (3.4 percent), though Pitta and Keller will be coming off serious injuries. Fred Davis is in the middle of the pack with a 4.0 percent drop rate and carries the risk of a long suspension, but they may like his upside.
The Lions may also address the position via the draft with a high-end pick like Texas Tech's Jace Amaro, Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins or North Carolina's Eric Ebron:
Mel Kiper Jr.Kiper's Big Board
"Another in the newer mold of tight end-slash-wide receivers, Ebron has the size to overwhelm cornerbacks and most safeties, but shows off a good burst and above-average straight-line speed. He can go up and get the ball, and does a good job of catching it with his hands. If he shows off a little more as a blocker, he could be the Tyler Eifert of this class."