The Detroit Lions are heading into the thick of mock draft season, and there’s been plenty of early rumors regarding who could be involved in the selection of both the team’s picks.
Detroit will select at picks six and 18 this year, and when they do, most figure a very needy defense will be the target of the team at both spots.
What if that wasn’t the case with one pick, though? Offense hasn’t been on the minds of many given the team finished 32nd in total defense last year, but a compelling case could be made for the team to go in an offensive direction when all is said and done.
Recently BetMichigan.com took a look at some of the early odds for selections in the impending draft. Not surprisingly, defense ruled the day for Detroit’s first selection, with Clemson’s Bryan Bresee taking home top odds at 27% and Texas Tech lineman Tyree Wilson (20%) and Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo (20%) a close second.
Further down the board for pick 18, the field had the highest odds at 23.3%, followed by Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez (20.4%) and Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson (17.4%).
Drawing a surprising 8.2% though, was Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer. That was intriguing enough for Shelby Dermer to take a closer look at Mayer’s case for Detroit specifically in the piece.
As was written, Mayer has some of the physical tools to compare with the best tight ends in the game, and has put up the collegiate production to help in proving that status.
“At 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, Mayer has drawn comparisons to former Patriots and Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski and is one of the best tight ends to ever come out of Notre Dame. He owns the program’s all-time record for catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns for tight ends,” Dermer wrote in the piece.
Specifically for Detroit, Mayer could help provide a big play boost to a Detroit offense that was already good, but could be hurting for a top-end target after dealing away T.J. Hockenson.
“Mayer would add a new weapon for an offense that ranked fourth overall in yardage last season and was fifth in scoring (26.6 points per game). The Lions are also looking for a new tight end after trading former first-round pick T.J. Hockenson for a fourth-round pick in the middle of last season,” Dermer wrote.
The Lions could always go big on defense within free agency, which could help open things up for the team in the draft. With Jared Goff in tow, the Lions could decide to add weaponry around Goff in order to help boost him up for the future in a bigger way.
Detroit has former tight end Dan Campbell as head coach, and just hired former NFL tight end Steve Heiden to coach the group. Could this pave the way for another young option to come into the fold? It’s more than possible even if it currently seems unlikely.
Detroit might also feel the players they already have at the spot are more than sufficient, which could close the door on a luxury pick like Mayer in the end. Even such, the odds do show that the tight end could be in play for the Lions this spring.
Mayer’s College Stats & Highlights
Watching Mayer’s tape, there is little to doubt what he brings in terms of ability at a key position in the NFL as a pass catcher as well as a blocker.
With the Fighting Irish, Mayer put up a total of 2,099 yards and 18 career touchdowns. He also had 180 total receptions in school, which helped him over the top as Notre Dame’s all-time receptions leader at the spot historically. Additionally, he earned consensus All-American honors for his work in 2022.
There’s little doubt Mayer is the most polished tight end in this year’s draft, and a player that seems a lock to be a first-round pick as a result. He could be in Detroit’s wheelhouse further down the board for a selection, and the team could certainly consider him.
Lions Tight Ends Finished 2022 Strong
Even without Mayer, the Lions have options at the tight end position, given how well the team’s players performed down the stretch. The group managed to achieve a franchise record for touchdown catches in a season with their play.
Against the Chicago Bears, the Lions needed a big game to keep their offense hot, and Jared Goff and Brock Wright got their combination hot in order to do so. Wright himself caught a pair of scores, both of which brought Detroit’s seasonal total at tight end to 12.
As the team’s public relation account pointed out on, the Lions managed to set the franchise record with both of the passes in the game.
“With Brock Wright’s 2nd TD of the game, his first multi-TD game, Lions tight ends have now produced 12 TDs this season. This establishes a new team record for the most TDs in a season by tight ends,” the site tweeted.
It’s fair to point out that Hockenson did contribute three of those touchdowns earlier last season, so it’s not exactly if he wasn’t a part of the equation. Notable, however, is the fact that the Lions have been able to carry on with the cast they have at the position.
Between Shane Zylstra, James Mitchell and Wright, this group has picked up the slack well in order to produce for the team. It can be a bit surprising that they were able to set this record after dealing away Hockenson for draft picks, but it has happened, which could point to their value.
Mayer could offer this group a major boost if the Lions decided to pull the trigger on his selection.