Hakeem Valles could lead the Lions tight ends in receiving

Detroit Lions, Hakeem Valles (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions, Hakeem Valles (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions did not draft Hakeem Valles, nor was he a marquee free agent. He may be one of the most important parts of their offense in 2018 anyway.

Hakeem Valles was the Detroit Lions best tight end in the preseason. He is not a great blocker, but he was the best receiver from the position during the preseason. Even when he was pressed into action with the first team, he was head ab shoulders better than the field.

Valles joined the Lions from the Arizona Cardinals. He joined the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2016. By week five he was starting due to a rash of injuries. he recorded three tackles on special teams, but his time in the starting line up was short lived. He is a plus special teamer.

Valles spent most of last season on the Lions practice squad after the Cardinals cut him. He was promoted to the active roster to prevent the Cardinals from signing him for the final game of the 2018 season, but he did not play.

This season he came out as a different level player than he has been previously. He was the Lions most consistent target in the second half of the first two preseason games. It was not until Luke Willson was injured early in the third preseason game that Valles got his shot with the starting offense. He stepped in and did exactly what he had been doing against the lower level competition he had been facing.

It takes tight ends time to develop, particularly those that were not tight ends to begin their college career. Valles switched to TE for the Monmouth Hawks only in 2014. It is understandable that he is only hitting his stride as a pro in his third year in the league. General manager Bob Quinn may have found a diamond in the rough.

The Lions need Valles to step up. Willson has looked like a career backup during the preseason. Levine Toilolo is a fine number two blocking specialist, but he adds little in the passing game. Michael Roberts has not impressed, despite his better draft pedigree than Valles.

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If there is a sleeper on the Lions offense for fantasy value last in the 2018 season, it is Hakeem Valles. He may not even dress week one, but if an ability to get the job done matters more to Lions head coach Matt Patricia than draft status or salary cap hit, Hakeem Valles could lead the Lions tight ends in receptions when the season ends.