Far and wide, the best tight end in this year’s NFL draft class is North Carolina TE Eric Ebron. He is projected as a top fifteen pick, and in some mock drafts, the Detroit Lions are being projected to take him. Currently the Lions have two tight ends that are locks to make the roster and one tight end that was drafted last year. Brandon Pettigrew was a 2009 first round pick and this offseason he was re-signed to a long term deal. He has been the Lions best tight end over the past few years and given the money and length of his contract, he will definitely be on the roster this season. Joseph Fauria, who was an undrafted free agent last season, is also expected to make the team given he recorded seven receiving touchdowns last season. The current third tight end is last year’s seventh round pick Michael Williams, who sat our last year on injured reserve with a broken hand. Given this information it certainly seems like the Lions are not in the market for a first round tight end this year. But, given Martin Mayhew’s steadfast commitment to the best player available philosophy, we have to expect it is possible that the Lions will draft him, even if it seems ridiculously unlikely.
So who is Eric Ebron anyway, and why would the Lions have any interest in him in round one? Ebron, who stands six foot four and weighs in at two hundred and fifty pounds is a junior out of North Carolina. He is not projected to be the next Jimmy Graham, but he is projected to be a quality starting tight end in the NFL, possibly in the role of a Jason Witten or a Tony Gonzales. Ebron’s first season was a forgettable one considering he only played sparingly, collecting only two hundred and seven yards. As a sophomore, he collected six hundred and twenty five yards to go with four touchdowns which is very good numbers for a tight end in the ACC. His final season was his best for yardage with a total of eight hundred and ninety five yards to go with only three touchdowns. Based solely on his numbers, he appears to be a great possession and “move the chains” receiver. This would be a huge positive for the Lions. His lack of touchdowns is a concern, but that could be attributed to his offense as North Carolina is not known as an offensive powerhouse.
Ebron had a pretty solid combine as well. He recorded a decent forty time of 4.60 which, although not an elite time, is a respectable time for a tight end to run. His bench press numbers were only average, registering a total of twenty four repetitions at two hundred and twenty five pounds. For a pass catching tight end though, his vertical is a more important indicator of potential success at the next level. He jumped 32 inches.
Is Eric Ebron the type of player that the Detroit Lions should select in round one? Before Pettigrew re-signed I would have said yes. Now that he is under contract, I do not see the need for Ebron to be selected by the Lions in the first round.