There’s no secret that the Detroit Lions were not satisfied with how their tight end group performed in 2018. They were content to move on from Levine Toilolo and Luke Willson and made the signing of former Pittsburgh Steeler Jesse James a priority in free agency.
With a stacked tight end class, the team has been setting their sights on several of the top ranked players at the position, and with their recent focus on the run game it should come as no surprise they are checking out one of the best blockers in the draft class in Washington’s Drew Sample.
Per a source, the Lions have scheduled an official visit with Sample on Tuesday. This marks the third official visit the Lions have scheduled with a tight end, having previously scheduled visits with Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger and Mississippi’s Dawson Knox. A majority of NFL teams were present for Sample’s workout at the Huskies pro day where he put up 25 reps on the bench to round out an elite athletic profile.
Sample put up a curious athletic profile in that he had an elite overall grade despite not putting up any elite numbers—that is, until he nabbed one at the bench during his pro day workout. Sample has an excellent blend of size, speed, agility, and explosiveness, though it never translated into elite production at Washington. Some of that had to do with his usage, where he was primarily asked to work with his strengths as a blocker.
Sample finished 2018 with only 25 receptions for 252 yards and three touchdowns and wasn’t asked to run a wide variety of routes. Despite the athletic tools to do so, he was generally tasked with simplistic routes where he would be allowed to chip or block and release rather than taking off at the snap to stretch the field.
The lone 80.0 or better run blocker was Drew Sample of Washington (82.3)— PFF DET Lions (@PFF_Lions) February 25, 2019
This is where Sample really made a name for himself. As the highest rated run blockers in college football last season, Sample wasn’t expected to measure as well as he did and certainly wasn’t expected to land among the elite in the class. With the Lions recent focus on the run game, it shouldn’t really be a shocker that they’re going straight for the hog mollies, and a player like Drew Sample could go a long way to aiding a punishing ground game.
Sample has been projected as high as the second round and as low as the fourth. In a class like this one, it will be interesting to see where the teams value individuals in a strong class, but my guess is that if the Lions want to land Sample they’re going to have to do so on Day 2.