This is it. This is my last trip of free agency... at least for now, I suppose. Last week I got to go back to Northern California to visit my alma mater and learn about DJ Hayden. This week I get to head back to Arizona for the first time since “Runaway Train” was a hit on MTV.
A quick story about that trip to Arizona. I have not been back since. And that’s probably because when we were there, I crashed a golf cart into a house. True story. I’m not proud of it. But I’m proud of it.
Anyways, I landed in Arizona and immediately felt the intense heat. I then began my travels. I trekked through the desert for hours until I reached the city of Glendale. Once I was there, the first thing I did was run over to Dazzo’s Dog House. I had a fire dog, followed by an Italian beef and finally another Italian beef. Then I headed over to Wet ‘n” Wild Phoenix to cool off.
Finally I stumbled upon the University of Phoenix Stadium. In section 441, I met up with Seth Cox of Revenge of the birds. I asked questions about the newest Detroit Lions tight end Darren Fells. Here’s what he had to say.
POD: What are your overall thoughts on Fells’ time in Arizona?
ROB: “Fells is a great story of working hard and creating opportunities for himself. He was a college basketball player who transitioned to tight end in the NFL, but it took time. That is why it is difficult to remember that Fells is going to be 31 before the season starts, because he only has three seasons under his belt. Which makes him as an evaluation tough. He needs work and makes mistakes that a lot of players with his experience make... Except they are not 31.
He will work his ass off, but he is never going to take that step that we all wanted him too, simply because I feel like it is too late.”
POD: What are his strengths?
ROB: “He does everything well, but nothing great. He can catch, he can block, he is a solid player, but he is a low end tight end two in the NFL, one that you bring in because he won't make a bunch of bad plays, but you know he is not going to do much in terms of boosting his value.
He is an okay route runner and a good athlete, from there, you just have to know who he is and understand that despite his youth as a player, he isn't young.”
POD: What are his weaknesses?
ROB: “Age? Experience? He is just so spectacularly average that you know he is not going to be a great player, but he isn't a bad player. He is a journeyman tight end in a three year veteran’s body.
You don't want to leave him on an island in pass protection, you don't want to ask him to make plays with the ball in his hands, you aren't going to use him as a lead blocker or anything like that, but as a second tight end who can be versatile, just not great.”
POD: The Lions have lacked a great blocking TE for a while now. Will Fells fill that spot?
ROB: “No, I really do not think so. If you watch him play, he is more of a help blocker than a guy you line up and let block in situations. If that is his expectation moving forward, I think people will be disappointed.”
Well I’ll be honest. That’s not exactly what I was hoping to here. When the Lions signed Fells a month back, I nearly jumped through the roof in excitement. Tight end was a position that had felt like it had been ignored for some time. You could see that in 2016 when the Lions asked Eric Ebron to block.
So when the Lions signed the tight end that Pro Football focus ranked fourth in pass protection in 2016, it seemed to me that they corrected their issue. Despite what Seth says, I still think Fells is going to help out the Lions dramatically in that area, but as Seth points out, age is going to be an issue for the long term. So I guess we can chalk this signing up to being a pretty decent stopgap.