Here are some quick thoughts about the Lions’ selection of Eric Ebron with the 10th pick in the 2014 draft. Fair warning, I’m both a Lions fan and an Ebron advocate, so I may have some bias here. Also, has anyone copyrighted “MegEbron” yet?
Is this thing on?
First, he was our number one ranked rookie TE for a reason. I don’t think he’s an all-time great TE in the making, but his comparable players are very solid. I also think he’s a good fit for the offense. As twitter friend Kent Platte noted, the Lions don’t have a problem in the red zone.1 Rather, they need help getting to the red zone. Ebron should be a great between-the-20s asset. While his red zone chops aren’t what you’d like from an elite TE, they’re just fine for a WR, which kinda fits Ebron’s game.
Second, it’s not a problem for me that the Lions also have Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria at TE. According to Over the Cap, the Lions have one of the leagues cheapest TE corps (10th cheapest). As Justin Winn has pointed out regarding RBs, lower costs likely mean the best player will see the field. Obviously Fauria and Pettigrew have more NFL experience than Ebron, but neither offers an insurmountable obstacle to playing time. Ebron is athletically superior to both for starters, and neither has a contract that will keep Ebron on the sideline. Ebron’s rookie contract is cheaper than Pettigrew’s, is likely to be guaranteed, and even though it would create some dead money, cutting Pettigrew in 2015 would create nearly $1 million in cap space for Detroit. As an undrafted free agent, Fauria is essentially expendable at any time as far as his contract goes. I’m not suggesting that either player will or should be cut, but contractually speaking, Ebron has the most secure roster spot of the three.
Third, despite signing Golden Tate, the Lions are still thin at wide receiver. I don’t think Ryan Broyles and Kris Durham really count as quality receiving depth. You could make an argument that Ebron is a decent WR in his own right. I’d argue that Ebron is already arguably the Lions best receiving TE and third best WR. So he should pretty much always be on the field. I think there will still be a role for Pettigrew (“blocking”) and Fauria (red zone), but Ebron should dominate the activity in the receiving game. Neither of the knocks against him – catch rate and TD scoring – are a big issue if you consider him for what he is- a hybrid WR/TE.
Finally, the Lions defense isn’t great, and spending a first round pick on offense means the defense gets, theoretically, less-talented help in the later rounds. While the Lions have talked about emphasizing the run more, they’re still likely to be trailing in a lot of games. Since the Lions will likely be trailing a lot, they’ll likely be passing a lot, and looking for big plays. That suits Ebron’s game.