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2018 training camp preview: Tight end

On the roster: Michael Roberts, Luke Willson, Levine Toilolo, Hakeem Valles, Marcus Lucas, Sean McGrath

Key losses: Eric Ebron, Darren Fells

Making the cut: Roberts, Willson, Toilolo

On the bubble: Valles, McGrath, Lucas

Table inside Article
Name Games Rec. Yards Long TD
Michael Roberts 15 4 46 23 0
Luke Willson 16 15 153 27 4
Levine Toilolo 15 12 122 25 1
Sean McGrath 15 4 46 23 0
Hakeem Valles 1 0 0 0 0
Marcus Lucas 0 0 0 0 0

Best competition: Who takes over for Ebron?

Ebron, the former 10th overall pick in 2014, was released this offseason after a four-year stint with the club. Lions GM Bob Quinn said the decision to release Ebron was a financial one. Ebron caught 53 passes last season and 61 in 2016, but had just five total touchdowns over that span.

Will the Lions look for a player like Roberts or Willson to emerge as the No. 1 receiving threat at the position, or will there be more of a production by committee approach? The latter seems to make the most sense.

Roberts, Willson and Toilolo all have specific skill sets that enable them all to contribute in their own way.

View photos of the tight ends competing for roster spots entering training camp.

Twentyman's take: The tight end position is one that still has a lot of question marks for me. Can Roberts take the next step and be a weapon in his second season after catching just four balls as a rookie? Can Willson be a No. 1-type player at the position after playing second fiddle to Jimmy Graham in Seattle throughout the last three years?

The expected emergence of second-year receiver Kenny Golladay could chip into some of the tight end targets, but Roberts and Willson were very much a part of the mix in open OTA and minicamp practices, and looked good in those sessions.

Detroit's commitment to improving their running game moving forward could also have an impact on the tight end position. We could potentially see more 13 personnel (three tight ends and one running back) than we have in the past. Roberts, Willson and Toilolo are all versatile players and good run blockers.

With the top four receivers from last year back, and the threat that Theo Riddick and others pose out of the backfield, there shouldn't be a huge need for one tight end to step up and be a 50-60-catch player. If one does, great for the Lions' offense, but we could see more of a tight end by committee approach in Detroit in 2018.

By the numbers:

11.5: The measurement of Roberts' hands in inches, just a quarter inch short of the NFL Combine record.

35: Combined receptions last season for the six tight ends currently on the Lions roster. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce led all tight ends last year with 83 receptions.

1.7, 1.6., 1.5: Toilolo, Roberts and Willson all received positive grades from Pro Football Focus in run blocking last season.

Quotable: "We want to try to have him (Roberts) concentrate on one position right now," tight ends coach Chris White said this offseason of Roberts playing the Y (in-line) position. "There's really three basic positions for tight end, and we'll kind of progress, hopefully, where he can do everything, but we're trying to keep it limited."

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