Isaac Nauta Eager To Throw Hat In Lions' Crowded TE Ring: "I Think I Can Do It All"

His best games at Georgia came against the best teams.

Will Burchfield
April 27, 2019 - 6:50 pm
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Bob Quinn is determined to cure the Lions tight end woes. 

After watching that group produce next to nothing last season, Quinn signed Jesse James. Then he signed Logan Thomas. Then he took T.J. Hockenson with the Lions' first pick in the draft.

And with their last pick on Saturday, he took Georgia's Isaac Nauta. 

Put it this way. If tight end is a weakness for the Lions again this season, it won't be for a lack of new options. 

The newest one is looking forward to throwing his hat in the ring. 

"Competition is good. It brings the best out of people," Nauta said in a conference call with local reporters. "If you got a bunch of talented guys that are challenging each other every day to get better and to be the best player they can be, I think there’s a chance to have a really exciting tight end room and help the Lions will a lot of football games." 

In 14 games last season, Nauta caught 30 passes for 430 yards and three touchdowns. He's a bit small for his position at 6'3, but creates separation with his speed and has very steady hands. He also considers himself a cerebral player. 

"I think I can do it all, as far as block, catch the football, can be protective, got good hands. I think playing the tight end position, too, you gotta have a lot of intelligence because there’s a lot that goes into it," he said. 

While Nauta's overall production in 2018 might not jump off the page, three of his best games came against Alabama, Florida and LSU. He put up 81 yards and a touchdown in the SEC Championship versus the Crimson Tide, outdoing counterpart and future second-round pick Irv Smith Jr. in the process. 

"It shows that I’m a gamer and I love the game of football and I want to do everything I can to help my team win," Nauta said. "I think when you carry that mindset, plays will come to you. And when they come, you have to make them." 

That will hold true for Nauta this summer as he tries to force his way onto the Lions' 53-man roster. On a five-man depth chart at tight end that also features Michael Roberts (for now, anyway), Nauta ranks fifth. 

A few spots above him is Hockenson, who Nauta met at the combine last month. 

"T.J.’s a great dude. He’s a heck of a player, and I know that iron sharpens iron," Nauta said. "We’re teammates now and we’re going to do our best to make each other better and do everything we can to help Detroit win. I’m excited to get to work with him." 

So is he excited to catch passes from a fellow Georgia product in Matthew Stafford.

"Hell yeah, absolutely. He’s an awesome quarterback and a guy that I’ve watched growing up. So I'm extremely excited to work with him and learn from him and just be able to hang out and win some football games together," Nauta said. "He’s a guy I look up to. He does things the right way. 

"And we’re both Dogs, man, so that’s another good connection." 

When Quinn stepped to the podium after the first round of the draft Thursday night, he was happy to officially check tight end off Detroit's list of team needs. 

"We've talked about last year's tight end situation ad nauseam here," he said. "I think it’s a totally different situation now, going out and signing Jesse and drafting T.J. We feel good about that room." 

Just to be sure, he added one more name to the mix on Saturday.