The Detroit Lions are unlikely to be in the market for a wide receiver or tight end early in the NFL draft this season, but that doesn’t make either position less of a long-term need for depth purposes. In fact, there’s an outside chance Eric Ebron isn’t retained in 2018, either by trade or cut for cap purposes, and he is almost certainly gone in 2019 unless a long-term deal is worked out prior to the season.
The 2018 draft class isn’t strong for that position, however, so the Lions will need to look later in the draft to find someone to develop rather than using early resources. We’re continuing our combine preview series with 10 pass catchers the Lions may target. These prospects will be working out starting Thursday, March 1 through Saturday, March 3.
Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech
Coutee is going to be an interesting one to watch since he comes from one of those systems known to inflate receiver statistics without producing NFL ready toolsets. Still, he has incredible deep speed and will likely be one of the guys talked about as candidates for the best time in Indy.
Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
Billed as a top flight, multi-sport athlete, it’s medicals that could be killer for Miller’s mid-round draft stock. Miller makes some pretty incredible plays, but is very unrefined in a lot of areas and clearly relies on his athleticism to win in some situations. Blowing the combine out of the water could do a lot for his draft stock, but putting to bed medical concerns would probably do more.
Simmie Cobbs Jr., WR, Indiana
Big with strong hands, Simmie Cobbs is certainly going to look the part coming into the combine. With separation and athleticism questions, however, Cobbs is going to need to show teams he has the tools for success in the NFL and prove during drills that he’s more than just a big target.
Auden Tate, WR, Florida State
Tate is another large target with athleticism concerns. The Lions could still use help in the red zone, so I expect guys like this to be looked at. Like most Florida State guys, many are quick to his defense when those athleticism concerns are brought to light, but with expectations low, it would do a ton for his draft stock if he even manages to break 4.6 in the 40-yard dash.
Byron Pringle, WR, Kansas State
Pringle looks like a guy who, at times, has more athleticism than he knows what to do with. He hasn’t quite got an angle on the mental part of the game, and with significant off-field issues to consider, as well as advanced age as a prospect (24), it’s the interview process where you’re going to be expecting the most out of him. Still, if he lives up to the hype athletically, he could find himself earlier in Day 3 than most project.
Jordan Thomas, TE, Mississippi State
The 2017 tight end class spoiled us in terms of athleticism and we probably won’t see many elite athletes in this group this year. Jordan Thomas has the tools to be the top dog athletically, but it’ll be every other part of the draft process that will be important for him. Thomas had virtually no production in college as he struggles to run routes, catch the football, and block—three traits that are kind of important for a football player at his position.
Jaylen Samuels, TE?, North Carolina State
Jaylen Samuels is 5-foot-11 and around 223 pounds, which will be the start of your questions projecting him in the NFL. An all-around weapon that likely would have been more at home with the running back (fullback) group, Samuels is put in a unique situation where he should outshine everybody he’s measuring with simply due to being far smaller and lighter. If he doesn’t, ouch.
Tyler Conklin, TE, Central Michigan
Conklin has decent size and kept his motor going constantly on the football field. Unfortunately, both medicals and some serious athleticism concerns are going to be his big hurdles to clear at the combine. In today’s NFL, you simply can’t get by with just a try hard attitude and desire to compete. He could raise his draft stock to early Day 3 with good performances during drills, as his body control and awareness are very good.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
So what happens if the Lions do decide to target a tight end early? Mike Gesicki has an awkward gait as a runner, but shows some very promising traits athletically that he could help himself by showing off at the combine. I don’t expect much in terms of agility, but Gesicki should do well in speed and explosion drills to go with his good size. I expect next to nothing as a blocker, though, and the combine drills should show just how much work needs to be done.
Chris Herndon, TE, Miami
If the Lions go the mid-round route at tight end, Chris Herndon is likely to be a target. His athleticism looks to be top notch and he could be one of the top performers at his position. With a late season MCL injury, however, it’s possible the medicals are a bigger concern, and it’s not even certain he’ll be ready to measure at the combine or if the shortened time to prepare would impact his scores.