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Rookie Roberts fitting in with fellow tight ends

Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn made it very clear after drafting Toledo tight end Michael Roberts in the fourth round of last month's draft that he and veteran Eric Ebron were different players.

"Eric's a fast, athletic, 'F' tight end, we call them," Quinn said at the time. "Big Mike is a 'Y'."

But 'Big Mike' showed in last week's open OTA practice that he's not just a one-trick pony. He made some plays in the passing game in 7-on-7 and team periods, and looked the part of a complementary pass catcher from that 'Y' spot.

"I'm more so a 'Y' and he's more so an 'F,' which we play hand and hand with each other," Roberts said. "Playing alongside him (Ebron), I think we can do some great things."

Ebron was top 10 in the NFL last year among tight ends in both catches (61) and yards (711).

Roberts was a lethal red-zone threat in his own right for the Rockets as a senior in 2016, scoring 16 times (sixth-most in the FBS) on 45 receptions for 533 yards.

Over 80 percent of Roberts' career catches at Toledo went for first downs, and this past season 35.5 percent of his receptions went for touchdowns.

"Red area target is exactly right," Quinn said of Roberts after the draft. "Big guy that, for his size, runs well enough. I mean this guy isn't a 4.5 guy, but for being 275 pounds, this guy moves pretty good. So, I'm excited to add him to the group."

Roberts has kept his head in the playbook and gone to work since arriving in Allen Park, trying to soak in as much knowledge as he can from veterans like Ebron and Darren Fells.

"Ebron is a great mentor," Roberts says. "He's someone that likes to work. Likes to have fun at the same time, but handles his business. Someone that I look up to."

Ebron's career got off to a slow start after he was the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft. It gives him a unique perspective as a role model for a young tight end like Roberts coming into the league.

"Mike is learning, man," Ebron said. "Playing tight end is not easy in this league. Take it from me, I had to learn (that) first-hand. It definitely throws a lot at him. He's taken it well, he's adapted to it. I just tell him to take a deep breath before every rep. He'll continue to get better.

"Like I told him yesterday, You've played football since you were young, but when you get to the NFL this is your first year ever playing football. That's how it is. The way you learn, the fundamentals, the challenges, the obstacles, so it's definitely harder for younger guys."

Roberts joked that one of the first things Ebron told him was that he was probably never going to make as many mistakes as he did in his first season.

"That was comforting," Roberts said. "But still, I have to get it done and learn each day."

That's the process for rookies around this time of year. Keep up or get left behind. It's an important lesson early on for them, and Ebron is trying to help Roberts keep up and avoid some of the same mistakes he made as a rookie.

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