One of the things Lions fans, bloggers and beat writers all have in common around July and August is the need to find that diamond in rough during training camp. It’s how we found current guys like Kerry Hyder Jr. or past players like Joe Fauria and Joique Bell. This year a lot of people focused on undrafted receiver Teo Redding early on. For me, my focus was on a little-known tight end named Hakeem Valles. After this year’s preseason performance, I believe every Lions fans will know his name in 2018.
Hakeem is going into his third year in the NFL. He was actually on the Lions practice squad during the 2017 season. He’s worked his way up the roster since coming over from Arizona last year.
Hakeem had himself a pretty good showing during the preseason. Valles had eight receptions for 84 yards. That may not seem like much for four games, but Valles outshined the rest of the Lions tight ends, at least in the receiving game.
What will that mean for his role now that the regular season has arrived? Even Valles isn’t sure.
“When it comes to role, I mean that’s all upstairs.” Valles said. “I’m pretty much ready and prepared to be wherever they throw me out at and I’m gonna capture that opportunity and just take care of what I gotta do.”
Valles has a good chance to capture that opportunity as he plays a position on the Lions that is still searching for a primary receiving option. Levine Toilolo is going to be a blocker first, and Luke Willson could very well be a problem in the red zone, but as far as everywhere else on the field, that is where Valles could shine.
Valles thinks so too, but he also wants to get in anywhere he can be used.
“My biggest asset is obviously running routes and catching the ball,” Valles said. “I’m just ready to prove that I can be an efficient part of this team. I’m not scared to go down in the trenches and things like that.”
Valles also brings some valuable special teams experience, having taken that role with Cardinals during his rookie year. So Valles is going to find his spot on this team somewhere.
But entering Monday night’s season opener against the Jets, Valles is sitting fourth on the unofficial depth chart at tight end. His work is not done yet.
If I were a betting man, I’d bet that Valles works with way up that depth chart and becomes a local favorite of Lions fans for his hard work and sure handedness in 2018. I look forward to watching the journey.