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
Weight: 250 lbs
Arm Length: 33 ¼”
Hand Size: 10”
Bench: 24 reps
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.
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.
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