Our 2017 roster review will reexamine the Lions’ roster and how it played out last season. We’ll take a look at expectations, performance and potential role in the future.
Today, we continue our discussion with Detroit Lions tight end Darren Fells
Expectations before 2017
Expectations for Darren Fells were relatively high. The belief was that Fells was brought in to bolster the run game and generally add a blocking tight end that could make up for Eric Ebron’s shortcomings in that department. Any leadership and/or receiving skills that came with Fells would be considered a total bonus.
Fells looked like he was going to be a major part of the Lions’ offense during training camp. He was one of the many standouts that everyone had their eyes on. So it’s safe to say, Fells had a high bar to reach.
Actual role in 2017
2017 stats: 16 games (13 starts): 17 receptions, 177 yards and three touchdowns
PFF Grade: 72.4 (21st of 73)
The feeling on Fells early on was not at all what anyone expected. He had two big games back-to-back against Minnesota and Carolina. He was particularly lethal in the Carolina game where the tight end scored two important touchdowns that gave the Lions a chance to win late in the game.
Eric Ebron is terrible period, Darren Fells is 10x better— Mike Barnett (@MBarnettDSC17) December 10, 2017
This became the general consensus on Fells for much of the season... or at least every time Eric Ebron made a mistake. Most of the hype came from those two games. In reality, Fells went on to record just nine catches for 102 yards and a touchdown in the final 11 games of the season.
He even had his own drops problems. More specifically, on Thanksgiving Day when a his touchdown was reversed because he did not maintain control of the ball. That loomed large when everything was all said and done.
Outlook for 2018
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
You can definitely say that Fells made an impact in Detroit in 2017. He came up big in some crucial moments and he did push Eric Ebron to turn his season around in a big way. He also helped in the blocking game in little ways here and there.
But Fells has a lot going against him if he’s looking to make a return to Detroit in 2018. The first being that Darren will be 32 years old in April. The other is that Fells didn’t do enough to prevent himself from being expendable.
There’s two ways the Lions can go about things with Fells. They can either sign the tight end to a small one or two-year deal and use him in a similar fashion in 2018. Or they can decide to move on and get younger at the position. Frankly they could get younger and still hold onto Fells.
In the end, this feels like something that will have a lot to do with coaching. If Jim Bob Cooter is retained (as expected), there’s a better chance. But if Matt Patricia comes in with an all new staff, Fells is more than likely one of those guys that is left on the cutting room floor.
Previously: DE Dwight Freeney, LB Tahir Whitehead , DE Ezekiel Ansah, S Tavon Wilson, CB Nevin Lawson, LS Don Muhlbach, LB Paul Worrilow, WR TJ Jones