We are only one day away from the return of Detroit Lions football. The upcoming month of preseason football will look a little different than usual Lions football, though. The star players that we have come to know and love will get limited playing time while rookies and roster hopefuls will will take on the spotlight. This week we are getting to know some of the lesser known players on the Lions roster that may make headlines this month.
Detroit added tight end Hakeem Valles on to their practice squad in Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. The 2016 undrafted free agent out of Monmouth played for the Arizona Cardinals in his rookie year. He bounced between the active roster and the practice squad appearing in 11 games in 2017. Valles was primarily used as a blocker and was not targeted once.
The tight end failed to make the 53-man roster cut in Arizona in 2017 and the Lions stashed him on the practice squad. He remained there until he was activated to play 18 snaps in Detroit’s meaningless Week 17 matchup against the Green Bay Packers. He was not targeted at all in that game either and was again primarily used a blocker.
Valles is an average blocker from the tight end position. When he doesn’t have to do much to find who he has to block, he does a great job getting low and using his leverage to hold back his man. When he is forced to go into motion, he struggles finding correct angles to approach. Coming out of college he was touted as a player who could provide utility as a receiver, and while he still has not shown that in game action yet, he has dazzled with a few impressive catches in training camp.
It is very unlikely that Valles wins a roster spot over the likes of tight ends Michael Roberts, Luke Willson or Levine Toilolo. Both Willson and Toilolo have primarily been blocking tight ends throughout their careers and Detroit needs someone to help Roberts fill the receiving void left behind by Eric Ebron. His most viable path to the roster is showing enough as a receiver that he proves to the Lions he’s what they need to replace that production. That will require him to finally bring his receiving prowess on to the playing field.
In the likely case that he does miss the roster he is still practice squad eligible. He is a not a guarantee to land there, though. This will be Valles third season in the NFL and if he still hasn’t managed to do enough to earn a regular roster spot in his career than Detroit may opt to hold on to a younger talent with more potential instead.
This next month of football could decide the tight end’s NFL future. If he can finally put it all together and prove that he can be a reliable receiver this month he might make an opening day NFL roster for the first time. If he cannot, then he may not get another chance in the league.