Lions' 2024 Roster Bubble: Tight Ends

Which Lions tight ends could be on roster bubble?
Aug 19, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions tight end James Mitchell (82).
Aug 19, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions tight end James Mitchell (82). / David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports
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The Detroit Lions appear to have found a star at the tight end position in 2023 second-round pick Sam LaPorta.

As a rookie, LaPorta burst onto the scene with a historic campaign. He set the NFL record for receptions by a rookie at his position with 86, and added 889 yards and 10 touchdowns. With this start to his career, the Iowa product appears to be on an elite trajectory.

While the young tight end is set to be a primary target for quarterback Jared Goff, he can also deliver an impact in the run game as a blocker. He looked to be ahead of the curve as a blocker in his rookie season, which is an asset in Detroit's ground-heavy attack.

Another factor in the team's run game is Brock Wright, whom the Lions retained as a restricted free agent after he signed an offer sheet with the San Francisco 49ers. Detroit matched the offer, keeping Wright in a Lions uniform for the next three seasons.

More: Is Lions 2024 Roster Most Complete in NFL?

While Wright has had modest production as a pass-catcher over his three NFL campaigns, he brings a vital impact as a blocker. Tight ends coach Steve Heiden expressed that he was "fired up" about the team's decision to retain the Notre Dame product.

The Lions have options for their third tight end choice on the roster, with several players in the mix. Coach Dan Campbell has expressed the desire for the offense to have a fullback, and with no true player at the position on the roster, that role could go to a tight end.

Roster bubble

Detroit has several experienced options to fill out its depth chart at the tight end position. Shane Zylstra and James Mitchell appear to be the front-runners for the spot.

Mitchell has the inside track as a 2022 fifth-round draft pick who has shown flashes of athleticism. He has contributed when called upon, but the start of his career was inhibited by limitations stemming from a knee injury suffered in college.

The third-year player has 13 career catches for 141 yards and one score in his career, but just two of those came last season. He appeared to be in line for an opportunity when LaPorta suffered an injury in the regular season finale, but he suffered a season-ending hand injury and his counterpart wound up playing through the injury.

Like Mitchell, Zylstra, too, has been limited by injuries. His 2023 campaign ended on a hit in training camp, when he suffered a significant knee injury and wound up missing the entire season.

There's optimism about what Zylstra can provide after he helped to fill the void left by the T.J. Hockenson trade in 2022. Still, he will have to prove that he has fully recovered from the injury.

Other options currently on the roster include veterans Parker Hesse and Sean McKeon. Hesse is a converted defensive end who has carved out a nice career at the position and contributed with the Atlanta Falcons over the last three seasons.

McKeon, meanwhile, is a Michigan alum who has previously suited up for the Dallas Cowboys.


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Christian Booher

CHRISTIAN BOOHER

Sports journalist who has covered the Detroit Lions the past three NFL seasons. Christian brings expert analysis, insights and an ability to fairly assess how the team is performing in a tough NFC North division.