Eric Ebron: Why He’s Still An Option for the 10th Overall Pick

March 27th, 2014

 

By Beast, DLD Contributor

As most Lions fans know, they recently signed Brandon Pettigrew to a contract (4 years/$16 mil).  If you assume that it takes Eric Ebron off the board, I don’t blame you; the Lions already have Brandon Pettigrew, Joe Fauria and Michael Williams on the roster.  However, I believe Eric Ebron is still an option at #10 overall and see how well he fits into the overall picture of Joe Lombardi’s offense.

Eric Ebron Scouting Report

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 250 lbs

Arm Length: 33 ¼”

Hand Size: 10”

40: 4.6

Bench: 24 reps

Vertical: 32”

Broad: 10’

Strengths:

Eric Ebron is an outstanding athlete who can threaten the defense vertically and horizontally. Very good route runner who knows how to set himself to get a clean release and get open where there’s big play to be had.  He’s a mis-match waiting to happen because he’s too athletic for LB and too big for DB to cover.  Ebron routinely wins in that regard.  Ebron has great balance, body control and can sink his hips when cutting to his routes.  He does extend his hands and pluck the ball out of air and it results in a big catch radius for QB to throw to.  Shown big improvement in contested catches which is encouraging because that is one of his bigger weaknesses from 2012 season.  Underrated blocker.  Ebron is very good at YAC after getting the ball and UNC uses him at TE screen or quick hitting passing game to get him in space.  Combine workouts confirm his athleticism on field which is a good thing.  Because of his athleticism, he can line up at slot, TE and H-Back, and that gives offense greater flexibility on what they want to do while keeping the same personnel on the field.

Weaknesses:

While Ebron show the ability to defeat coverage and gain separation, his hands can be a bit inconsistent.  I’m not sure if it’s focus issue or if he’s not quite comfortable catching the ball while extending his hands out to the ball. However, he routinely makes one handed catches and shown improvement in contested catches which is why I’m leaning toward focus issue more than comfort.  That being said, he has a bit of a tendency to body catch. While he’s an underrated blocker, it still needs work.  Ebron sometimes doesn’t display a consistent effort in blocking as much as he does as a receiver.  He needs to do a better job of getting his hands into defender’s chest quickly then extend his arm and move his feet.  Ebron strangely is better inline than blocking in space. He needs to improve his aiming point when blocking because it’s all over the place and it shows on the field.

How he fits into Joe Lombardi’s Offense

When he was at New Orleans, the offense has amazing diversity in formations and how they use formation and motion to create mismatches. Yes, it’s Sean Payton’s offense, but that doesn’t mean that Lombardi doesn’t know how to use it for the Lions. How does Ebron fit into his Lombardi’s offense? Simple, he’ll play in the role of Jimmy Graham where he’ll be lined up at slot, TE and H-back for the Lions.  Brandon Pettigrew signing shouldn’t preclude the Lions from drafting Eric Ebron.  Pettigrew is more of a traditional TE who is limited to inline as a blocker and come out to short/intermediate area as a receiver.  Ebron is a much more dynamic athlete than Pettigrew and offers versatility for offense.

Here’s a look at how the Saints use Jimmy Graham and other TEs:

 

Most times,  Jimmy Graham primarily lines up at slot or outside WR because they want to isolate DBs for mismatches.  They also line up their #2 TE, Ben Watson at more of a traditional TE as a blocker or receiver.

Jimmy Graham does line up at in-line TE, but that’s more of a rare occasion that is designed to keep the defense honest.  Here, it’s a running play where he’s a blocker.

Again, it’s another rare occasion where Jimmy Graham lines up at TE while Watson lines up at off-set TE.  Watson motioned to the right to be a lead blocker on a run play.

Graham lines up at Y-Slot spot. He motioned to the weakside.

Graham lines up at TE spot.  This is more of a power running formation, but here the Saints passed the ball. Watson became a receiver post-snap.

 

Graham is lining up at far right boundary. This creates a one on one coverage in which Brees can exploit the mismatch if he chose to go to Graham.

This is all in one half on one game!  The formation diversity is amazing to see from New Orleans offense and how they utilized Graham to their advantage.  They used him at X, Z, slot and TE to create mismatches, not only for him but for other players.

What does this mean for Lions and Ebron?

Just because the Lions re-signed Brandon Pettigrew, it doesn’t take Eric Ebron off the board.  As I’ve said earlier, Pettigrew is more of a traditional TE while Ebron is more of a new breed TE who is a dynamic receiver and offers more of a mismatch.  The only spot that is in danger in my opinion is Michael Williams.  He was on IR for a broken hand and doesn’t offer much except for blocking, which is unproven in the NFL level.  Ebron selection would serve as a hedge of a possibility that Joe Fauria is a one year wonder, but doesn’t have the quick twitch, explosive athleticism to separate even though he’s great at contested catches like he showed last year with eight touchdown catches.

With Calvin Johnson commanding the bulk of defense’s attention, that’s going to benefit Ebron in taking advantage of the mismatches that Joe Lombardi would certainly put him in position to do so.  Throw in Golden Tate, who is also a fantastic WR in his own right. The Saints love to rotate WRs so Ebron’s ability to flex out at WR is a huge asset on saving a roster spot for somewhere else. It also gives Jeremy Ross a chance to compete for the slot WR spot.  Lombardi will use 2 or 3 TE set and take advantage of Ebron’s skill set as a receiver.  Lions can keep both Ebron and Pettigrew on the same field and still offer formation diversity because Ebron’s ability to line up at slot, TE and H-Back. That will force the defensive coordinator into a tough decision whether to keep base defense to defend against the power running game or go nickel against the spread passing attack.

Another idea is that the Lions could trade down and target Jace Amaro.  While he’s not as athletically gifted as Ebron, his movement, hands, size and competitiveness are all very intriguing.  Even with the Tate signing, Lions would need more weapons for Stafford to throw to, especially with Lombardi’s WR rotations. The depth at WR is still weak.

All screen shots are from NFL Game Rewind.

Follow Beast on Twitter @Beast1530

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8 Responses to “Eric Ebron: Why He’s Still An Option for the 10th Overall Pick”

  1. The Strategy Expert says:

    Interesting, but why the big need to spend the money on Pettigrew and how does he fit if they draft Ebron. In other words I would like to see you make the same presentation for Pettigrew now that you did one for Ebron. No matter how you slice it I just see an inefficiency in having Ebron/Pettigrew/Fauria/Williams. So I don’t see the plan to want to have all 4 of them thus I think the plan is something else. We have too many needs to fill and taking Ebron also removes the entire nice case you could write for a player at a different position.

    • Beast1530 says:

      They’re not going to keep 4 TEs on the roster. If any, it’d be Mike Williams who is likely to get cut. Pettigrew will play the role of #2 TE as a blocker and occasionally come out of TE as a receiver. Saints use 2-3 TE set a lot and loves to use power running scheme which is where Ebron and Pettigrew comes into picture. This gives Lombardi ton of flexibility of what he wants to do with the same personnel grouping without having to substituting players.

      • The Strategy Expert says:

        Ok, but they liked Williams enough to draft him last year and just seems like a waste to cut him before giving him any chance whatsoever. So let’s assume for argument’s sake that they draft Ebron and Williams is totally healthy and has a fantastic preseason, what do you do then?

        Also did anybody check out the Ebron interview on ProFootballTalk Live? Or the Mike Evans interview today on the same show? I thought the Evans interview was pretty strong.

        • Beast1530 says:

          Mike Williams was under the old coaching staff. This is the new coaching staff. I’d still put Mike Williams at PS.

          • The Strategy Expert says:

            Ok fair enough.

            But are you really that comfy considering that your own Jeff Risdon has Amaro as a higher ranked TE? What if the #12 pick is offered in a trade along with say a 4th Rounder, would you be willing to gamble on Ebron lasting until only 2 more spots while picking up a 4th knowing that there will still be a healthy list of alternative picks in case he goes 10 or 11?

          • Beast1530 says:

            Yes, Ebron is my clear cut #1 TE on my board with Amaro at close 2nd. I feel far more comfortable with both TEs in the draft than any other TEs. TE class is pretty bad aside from the two top TEs except maybe Lyerla but he has big time off-field issues.

            If you want Ebron and he’s your guy, you have to take him and not risk gamble that he’ll be there at later spot. You trade down only if you see several prospects you like are graded equal. You don’t trade down and hope that a prospect is still there. If you like him, you take him at that spot.

          • The Strategy Expert says:

            Ok, just wanted to feel you out on how strong you felt about Ebron. I kinda like Amaro myself. I went over the tape and I see the upside on Ebron, but Amaro is a little more physically impressive on the tape. I think I would have to say I lean towards the Risdon evaluation and I’d be too tempted to rate Amaro ahead of Ebron. Either way, if I needed a TE I would either not take one in the 1st round, but if I did then I just can’t feel comfortable taking Ebron over Amaro, I just can’t make that pick.

  2. Derek says:

    Looks like you nailed it Beast. I am not sure whether you are still following this thread but kudos to you and your work. I noticed you commented that you do not think the Lions will go with 4 TEs. I disagree. One of the team’s primary rookie free agent signing targets was a TE (Maxwell). They also signed Jordan Thompson before the draft who is a swiss-army knife type of player at the TE/H-back position.

    My question is whether you think the Lions can replicate the Hernandez/Gronkowski 2 TE sets NE used with so much success a few years ago? Additionally, is it possible Fauria (or another TE) could push Pettigrew even further down the depth chart? I ask because like you, I struggled with the team’s decision to re-sign the oft under performing tight end.





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