MOBILE, Ala. – Tight end Eric Ebron set career highs with 61 receptions for 711 yards this past season. Both marks ranked in the top 10 among NFL tight ends.
Detroit's other three tight ends – Clay Harbor, Cole Wick and Matthew Mulligan – combined to catch just six passes for 45 yards, however.
With Harbor, Mulligan and Tim Wright (spent 2016 on IR with knee injury) slated to become free agents this offseason, the Lions could potentially be in the market for a tight end to pair with Ebron at some point in the draft.
They're probably not players in the first round, but this is a very deep class of tight ends, and there could be some real value in the middle to late rounds.
The position has been one of the best down at the Senior Bowl so far this week, led by probably the top overall prospect in Mobile in Alabama's O.J. Howard, a likely first-round pick.
But Evan Engram (Mississippi), Gerald Everett (South Alabama) and Michael Roberts (Toledo) are just a few of the talented tight end prospects making plays all over the field through the first two days of Senior Bowl practices.
Engram (6-3, 236) caught 65 passes for 926 yards (14.2 average) and eight touchdowns this past season. He's shown a knack for making plays down the field in the passing game so far this week. He's working hard to prove he can also be a complete player as a blocker as well.
"I'm doing what I do best in the vertical game and the pass game," Engram said when evaluating his week so far. "Teams are impressed with my willingness to block and get my nose in there and really compete and not being soft and coming off the ball hesitant."
Roberts caught a Toledo-record 16 touchdowns from the tight end position this past season. The 6-foot-4, 256-pounder also has ridiculously large hands at 11 5/8 inches, bigger than any player at the Senior Bowl.
"I think my game translates to the next level because of my versatility," Roberts said after Wednesday's practice. "I take pride in my blocks. You'll always hear me say that. That's something that you need to be consistent and make a 53-man roster."
Factoring in all the top-ranked underclassman not here this week, tight end is one of the deepest overall positions in the draft.
"This is a year that if you want a tight end, you should be able to get one," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on a conference call last week.
The Lions didn't utilize a whole lot of two tight end sets in their passing attack in 2016. Quarterback Matthew Stafford attempted 26 passes out of a two tight end set, according to STATS. INC.
But when the Lions did throw out of that set, they were successful. Stafford completed 22 of those passes for two touchdowns for a 144.4 passer rating.
Ebron has missed eight games due to injury over his first three seasons, and the Lions have struggled to fill the void at that spot when he's been out.
Lions GM Bob Quinn has been good over his first year on the job building depth at a number of positions. This could be a perfect draft to start to build some young depth behind Ebron at the tight end position.