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NFL breakout players 2018: Luke Willson can be the tight end the Lions need

Willson, who began his career with the Seahawks, will add some toughness to the Detroit running game.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

After spending his first five seasons in Seattle, Luke Willson signed with Detroit this offseason. The Lions also released former first-round pick Eric Ebron, giving Willson the inside track to be the starting tight end there this year.

With the Seahawks, Willson was more of a blocker, especially after they brought in Jimmy Graham in 2015. He’s pretty good at it, but it would be a huge mistake to think that blocking is all Willson can do.

At 6’5 and 251 pounds, Willson has great size for the position and the dude has some wheels on him, too. He can get upfield in a hurry, and he should be a weapon for the Lions in the middle of the field this season. He also has pretty decent hands, something you notice when you watch his film. He did have a couple of drops last year, but those were more about concentration and trying to run before he caught the ball than anything else. He made several other tough catches to even things out, and that gives me confidence that the drops were more an aberration than a legit problem.

One other thing I loved about watching Willson on film last year was how he tried to punish dudes after he caught the ball.

Seattle would throw him these little short screens every now and then, and while he also showed that he could avoid tacklers in space pretty well when he wanted to, there were plenty of times when Willson just lowered his shoulder pad and tried to run through them instead.

I definitely can respect that.

That Willson is also a top-notch blocker is just the icing on the cake. Whether it’s a defensive end on the line of scrimmage or linebackers and secondary guys, Willson will put it on them when he is run blocking. He is an equal opportunity ass kicker, and if he catches a guy slipping, you might as well gone ahead and break out the syrup. He will definitely add some toughness to the Detroit running game this season, which is something it lacked with Ebron in there.

As a starter, Willson should get a ton more targets this season than he has ever had in his career.

I believe he will make the most of those opportunities, too. I see him being a weapon for Matthew Stafford in that offense and a guy that defenses will have to account for in their game plans by the time this season is over. He should really flourish now that he is out of Graham’s shadow.

Confidence Level: High