The irony/riddle/enigma of the Lions selection of Michael Roberts is the eerie similarity to Brandon Pettigrew, but for the EXACT opposite reason that the casual Lions fan would think. Also, I expect Roberts to be a case study in the role of fan expectations in perceived performance.
…. Also, former Toledo RB Kareem Hunt would have been a GREAT selection, but went to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 3rd round, 1 pick after our original 3rd round slot (we traded back for Golladay) …. Just saying …. *sigh*
So Draft Breakdown only has the one video on their site, and my rule usually is to at least watch 3 games of film to form an opinion on a player. That being said, I have seen Roberts live before, and his tape is very consistent with what other “draft experts” have said, so I’m confident in my evaluation.
First the positives. For a converted basketball player, he is a very natural pass catcher, with soft (and HUGE) hands, and a natural ability to just find areas to get open. Also, while he does not create much separation, his incredible size allows him to still be a target for his QB. I think he will greatly aid the Lions in the Red Zone as a big target that can draw attention and provide an outlet for Stafford. This was a role that Anquan Boldin gamely filled for us last season and with his return still up in the air, Roberts provides an immediate and long term option to fill this void.
Now for the negatives. Much like with Pettigrew, many observers very lazily assume that Roberts is a great run blocker, because of his great size for the position. However, much like in Pettigrew’s case, they would be wrong. Pettigrew fluctuated between being a poor and average blocker during his time with the Lions. I would not categorize Roberts as a poor run blocker, but it certainly is not a strength. He just does not fire off the ball with the tenacity or aggressiveness that you would think he would based on his size. He can probably handle blocking linebackers or safeties on the second level, but if you are asking him to seal the edge or block down on a defensive lineman, you are asking for trouble.
Overall Roberts is a carbon copy of Pettigrew. They are both big, athletic TE’s that lack explosion , but still are good at getting open. People often forget that at the peak of Pettigrew’s career he was a 75 catch – 750 yard – 5 TD TE for a few seasons. His production as a pass catcher is wildly underrated by Lions fans, likely because of his draft slot. While I’m not sure if Roberts will post stat lines as good as those, he certainly could, and nonetheless will be a strong addition to the passing game. And I predict he will be much more appreciated than Pettigrew ever was. However, those thinking he will be a positive in the run game will be sadly mistaken. I would actually settle for him being an average run/pass blocker.
I give this selection a B. I would have preferred the pick of George Kittle, a guy with ELITE run blocking that would really help the Lions run game go to the next level, while also being a solid receiving option. That selection would have gotten an A+ from me. Still Roberts is a decent pick, that gives us a nice blend of TEs. So while there were better options on the board, Roberts was a decent pick (seems to be Quinn’s signature).