The Detroit Lions selected North Carolina TE Eric Ebron with the 10th overall pick. This was a bit of a surprise, though not entirely unexpected given that presumed targets Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Anthony Barr and Justin Gilbert were all off the board by that point.
Instead of going into great depth here, I’m scrapbooking this together.
My instantaneous reaction when finding out the pick while on the air with Jeff (& others) on RSE Network was that I expected it to be Aaron Donald but wasn’t upset with Ebron.
My subsequent Tweets:
Picture Ebron in the role many envisioned for Mike Evans and look at it thru that prism for the Lions
— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) May 9, 2014
Which bleeds into this expanded thought:
Ebron & Tate working one side, one as slot one as wide, Calvin solo on other side. Bush in backfield. Defend that, NFC North.
— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) May 9, 2014
Here’s my skinny scouting report on him from RealGM, where you will note I ranked him 8th overall in this class:
8. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Notes: Speedy flex/slot weapon more of a hybrid WR/TE in the Vernon Davis or Jimmy Graham mold. Has some drop/concentration issues and his exuberant confidence won’t work everywhere, but can do things down the field that few TEs can even consider.
Don’t look at Ebron as a tight end. Look at him as the third receiver, albeit a very big one. He’s the receiver with size that can threaten the middle of the field and line up either in the seam or wide out.
In that context, he’s an excellent fit. It’s critical that the Lions see him in that role, however, or else they’ve made a Gob Bluth-like huge mistake.
The confounding issue here is that the team just re-signed Brandon Pettigrew for 4 years and $16 million to play tight end. I didn’t like that move when it was made, and now I really dislike it. I feel about it the way Red Wings fans think of Claude Lemieux in an Avalanche uniform.
The problem is that Pettigrew is now the third-best TE on the roster. Joseph Fauria showed a lot more upside in his rookie season. No, I don’t expect Fauria to catch a freakish amount of touchdowns again. But I love how he improved as a blocker, a route runner, and a teammate throughout 2013. He’s a weapon defenses have to account for. Brandon Pettigrew is a guy other teams hope Matthew Stafford targets 12 times a game.
I’m worried that Ebron’s arrival means that Fauria will get buried, and that bothers me. Ebron is a significantly better, and different, player, so I probably shouldn’t lose sleep over it. I guess I’m more upset that the $16 million is going to a player who now is, as a best-case scenario for Pettigrew, the 5th target on the offense after Johnson, Tate, Ebron, and Bush. If Pettigrew could consistently block, that would be one thing, but he has too many occasions where he’s nonexistent.
My colleague here, Beast (no, I don’t know his real name!), wrote a pretty cool piece last month about how Ebron fits. You can read it here, and note how well he incorporates what new Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi has done with a weapon like Ebron while working with Jimmy Graham in New Orleans.
Ebron offers a definite personality. He’s not shy and does not lack confidence, though he handles himself with an easiness that doesn’t come off as arrogant or nasty. In radio spots with ESPN and Sirius XM NFL Radio after he was drafted, Ebron was very at ease and gregarious. It’s hard to find him without a smile on his face.
In that Sirius interview, he talked about how instantly he developed a connection with Tight Ends Coach Ron Prince. He called it a father-son relationship and was clearly looking forward to learning under him.
The Lions can use a dose of outgoing personality. As great as Johnson is, that’s not his style. Stafford is more of a leader by example. Nate Burleson was the pulse of the offense, and he’s now in Cleveland. Ebron can handle that clubhouse goofball role and revel in it. Good teams all have that self-confident yapper who can sound off so guys that don’t want to talk don’t have to. Ebron is that guy.