The NFL is an ever-changing, copycat league where imitation is always the most sincere form of flattery. Hopefully, the Detroit Lions are attempting to imitate the New England Patriots with some of their recent moves at tight end.
By drafting Michael Williams and signing undrafted free agent Joseph Fauria, the Lions look committed to making that a position of strength over the next decade. Already armed with Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler, Detroit added more strong youth to its potential arsenal very impressively at the position.
Williams, primarily a mauling blocker who maintains underrated hands in the red zone, won't be flashy at all. He's the extremely valuable type of player who does everything well but nothing outstanding. Fauria, thanks to his imposing size and solid frame, is the far more sexy and interesting pickup because of his hands.
Looking on paper at the physical mold, Fauria has all the tools to become a Rob Gronkowski for Detroit's offense. In fact, Fauria, a fellow Pac 12 product, is already slightly bigger than Gronkowski at 6'7'', and had four more touchdowns in college than he did (20 to 16). As far as playing the quiet college role, Gronkowski and Fauria are complete equals, both relatively unknown to the east coast except for the teams that courted them during the draft.
The Patriots, forever innovators, have always used multiple tight end sets and picked up players at the position regardless of who they've got. With Calvin Johnson commanding attention deep and Reggie Bush coming out of the backfield, perhaps the Lions don't need to have a dynamite second option for Megatron. Maybe underneath routes at tight end will become the Lions' bread and butter. After all, the Patriots have always had one good receiver and a solid running back supplemented by great tight ends. Perhaps that's the reason a bigger name receiver wasn't added and the Lions are stockpiling bigger bodies.
Since he was signed, Fauria has been the Lions' rookie I've been most intrigued by. He's bigger than Pettigrew, Scheffler and Williams and would enter the NFL as a large target at the position. Fauria would be tied as the tallest current body at the position with Scott Chandler and Kellen Davis, all just a notch below 6'8'' Lenord Pope, the biggest tight end but a current free agent. Fauria's size dynamic could boost the Lions' already potent offense. Having another Megatron-type body for Matthew Stafford to throw to would be a matchup nightmare for the opposition across the field.
Undrafted free agents are usually simple camp fodder, but lately, many have played a huge role in filling out championship teams. With his size and all the intangibles he brings, sleeping on Fauria to make an immediate impact in Detroit might prove to be the biggest mistake.
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