Eric Ebron 2014 Fantasy Football Outlook
Eric Ebron was a stud tight end at North Carolina and entered the 2014 NFL Draft just dripping with potential. He had so much upside, in fact, that at one point draft experts thought it was completely plausible to see him drafted inside the top-five. While some felt the top-five was a bit of a reach, the top-10 was widely accepted as a very strong possibility.
Ebron ended up going to the Detroit Lions, which was probably an appropriate landing spot in terms of the value of a stud tight end in a pretty deep 2014 draft class. However, it’s an interesting landing spot, since the Lions had just got done re-signing Brandon Pettigrew as their main man and also already have a solid backup in Joseph Fauria.
With that said, there was a real need for Ebron and it looks like he could fill a major role right away as a rookie in 2014. Just what will that role mean for his fantasy football value, though?
Let’s break down Ebron’s talent, his surroundings and his ultimate fantasy value for 2014 and beyond:
Eric Ebron is a freak. He was without a doubt the most physically gifted tight end entering this year’s draft class, and everyone knew it. There might be a few guys who ran faster than him or had a slight edge in one facet, but when it came to the most complete tight end with immense upside from a physical standpoint, no one really touched Ebron.
Blessed with elite size and speed for the position, Ebron also packages excellent agility and fluidity, allowing him to run routes and make defenders miss much like a wide receiver. Ebron is at his best when the ball is in the air, though, as he has outstanding ball control and a top level catch radius. He can instantly become a terror in the red-zone, while also giving the Lions a second elite threat to go up for jump balls all over the field.
More importantly, though, is that Ebron can also own the middle of the field as he’s a major mismatch for opposing linebackers. He also will stretch the field to open things up for Calvin Johnson and other Detroit receivers. He’s a versatile threat on from a skill perspective alone, but on top of all of that, also offers immense potential as a blocker. Some scouts needed to find holes in his game and would say he wasn’t an effective blocker, but that’s just not true. Not only does Ebron have the size and strength to be an asset in the running game as a blocker, but he’s also a very willing and engaging blocker. He finishes blocks well and gives full effort, as well.
He still needs work on his technique and consistency in this department, while he could also still probably get even stronger. But being that he’s already very solid in this area on the surface, the writing is on the wall for Ebron to quickly develop into a true every down tight end. That may not happen right away, but it bodes extremely well for his long-term fantasy value, as it would keep him on the field at almost all times.
Calvin Johnson remains Detroit’s top weapon in the passing game, naturally, but Ebron comes in as a very realistic number two option. Depending on how he’s used (reportedly more of a “move” tight end to start his career out), he should really open things up and cause defenses to think twice about doubling Megatron in or near the red-zone.
The Lions don’t really have a legit secondary weapon, as newly signed Golden Tate is probably better suited in the slot or as a third or fourth option. Current starting tight end Brandon Pettigrew is a serviceable in his current role but isn’t a factor in the red-zone and is pretty much just a possession guy that helps move the chains. Fauria is mostly just a jump ball guy in the red-zone.
That leaves the Lions with the talented but always injured Ryan Broyles left to help out, and he can’t be relied upon.
Reggie Bush and Joique Bell help out immensely as an effective one-two punch in the running game, while both have the versatility and explosiveness to continue to be huge factors in the passing game, as well.
At the top is quarterback Matthew Stafford, who could stand to suck it up and refine his footwork and mechanics, but even without the extra work is an elite passing talent with a considerably high ceiling. The Lions are expected to get a little more balanced than they have been in recent years, but their talent still suggests a good amount of passing. That should leave the door open for Ebron to have a solid role, whether it be strictly as a receiver or eventually Detroit’s main tight end.
While there is a ton of optimism here in all regards, Ebron is still a rookie. He’s not currently starting and you have to figure Megatron and Bush alone will soak up quite a few receptions. After all, the two did combine for 138 receptions. New Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi worked with the Saints for years and will come over ready to use his backs even more in the passing game.
Naturally he’ll look to force feed Megatron the ball, too, but the plus here is Lombardi’s experience with the studly Jimmy Graham in New Orleans. Ebron isn’t quite on Graham’s level, but their talent is similar and their roles could be, as well.
For now, Ebron obviously holds much more value in Dynasty leagues, where he can safely be taken within the first two rounds. He also does have interesting value in redraft leagues for this year, too, though. Ebron is currently being taken in the 10th round of fantasy mock drafts, making him the 11th tight end off the board. Considering that’s about where the “sure thing” options are already gone, that looks to be a good spot to snatch him up.
There’s not telling if Ebron will bust out right away, but the stage is set for exactly that to happen. However, we can’t project him as anything more than a potential high-end TE2 for now.