There is no doubt that Eric Ebron is the first tight end selected in the 2014 NFL draft on May 8th, 2014 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Where in the first round he gets selected is not so sure. Here is my take on his draft potential and what a team will get by drafting him.
He’s got great size (6’4, 250 pounds) and athletic ability (4.6 40 yard dash, 32’ vertical jump) for his position. He’s dangerous in the vertical passing game and after the catch. Here is an example of that athletic ability from this past season.
All those positive things must mean he’s a lock for the top five of the first round, right? Not so fast my friend! (I’m not proud of myself for quoting Lee Corso.) Ebron is the top talent at his position this year, but like any draft prospect he has some things to work on.
Two things that stand out to me: dropped passes and blocking.
Wait a minute, he’s a big downfield threat and he needs to work on catching the ball? Not quite so black and white. He needs to catch the “easy passes” more consistently. He makes many great catches and spectacular plays, but will miss the easy ones more than you’d expect. He actually had the highest percentage of dropped passes, 11%, on what were deemed “catchable balls” of all the top TE prospects in this years draft.
The other hole he needs work on is quite common for big play receiving types, blocking. The NFL is as pass happy as ever. More often then not his number will be called to catch a pass over making a block, but the fact remains that he must become a better blocker going forward. He needs to be engaged in the game no matter what the play call is. He’ll be reminded of that plenty as a rookie.
His natural separation skills and big play ability is what has owners and coaches chomping at the bit to select him. I’m going to offer a few options for the former Tar Heel come May 8th at the NFL Draft.
Highest pick potential – No. 7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Timothy Wright had a nice end of the season for Tampa Bay as a tight end, (three touchdowns in his final four games) but adding Ebron would give the Bucs some dynamic offensive possibilities. If Doug Martin returns to form (which I think he will) and Vincent Jackson continues to play well (78 catches, 1,224 yards, 7 TDs), the addition of Ebron would make their offense respectable.
Tampa Bay is already moving in the right direction by getting rid of Darrelle Revis and adding Josh McCown to help mentor Mike Glennon. The Bucs need more options to catch the ball as they finished dead last in passing last season (176 yards/game) and Ebron could be that guy for them. The biggest reason I see this not happening is the likelihood of Mike Evans, the Texas A&M wide out, still being on the board. The Bucs will more than likely take him if he’s there instead of Ebron.
Lowest pick potential – No. 18 New York Jets
If he gets lower than this spot to the Jets, consider him to be one of the steals of the draft. The only team worse last year in the passing game than the Jets, were the Bucs. The Jets are in need of a play-maker and if Ebron somehow drops this far, not even New York Jets fans could boo this pick. The Jets lost Santonio Holmes this off-season and are in need of some big play ability. Whether it’s Geno Smith or Michael Vick as the starter, they would both reap the benefits of Ebron as a target downfield.
Likely pick potential – No. 9 Buffalo Bills or No. 10 Detroit Lions
The chance of trades always makes these things hard to predict. Word around the campfire is that the Bills are trying to trade up from their spot at number nine. They could also address the offensive line with Taylor Lewan out of Michigan at this spot if they stay where they’re at. They have needs in both areas as they gave up 48 sacks last season and finished 28th in passing. I think they’ll address the line since they’ve got a second year quarterback in EJ Manuel coming off an injury.
If that happens, don’t be surprised if the Lions take Ebron at number ten to make their offense even harder to defend. The Detroit front office is going to be very intrigued to add Ebron to the mix with Megatron, Golden Tate, and Reggie Bush.
Other possible suitors – Every pick from 12-16.
That’s right, the Giants (12), Rams (13), Bears (14), Steelers (15), and Cowboys (16) could all easily decide they want another big play receiver. These teams all have other needs that are a little more pressing so it’ll become the question of whether they go for the best player available, or address a need.
My prediction – Detroit Lions
“With the 10th pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Detroit Lions select, Eric Ebron, Tight End, the University of North Carolina.” – Roger Gooddell.
This will be the fourth year in a row the Tar Heels have produced a first round draft pick. If he gets taken by the Lions at No. 10, it’s the second year in a row UNC has had a top ten pick. (Jonathan Cooper, No. 7 in 2013 to Arizona.) That is a pretty big accomplishment for a “basketball school” that isn’t in the almighty SEC to produce that kind of talent every year.
Wherever Eric Ebron ends up this year, that franchise is going to get a big play receiver at the tight end position who can contribute right away. With the right coaching and a solid work ethic, he could be one of the most dangerous TEs in the NFL in a few seasons.
Where do all you Heels think he will or should be taken? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below!