Scouting Report: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
More upside than any tight end in the 2014 draft class
Eric Ebron is the consensus choice for top tight end in this year’s draft class, and I can’t say we disagree. The UNC product is what NFL teams are looking for these days because he can play at a high level as an in-line tight end or as a detached tight end. He’ll give the team that drafts him flexibility and high-end performance, assuming they can get maximum effort out of him. I think that’s the key for Ebron, who, if he can stay healthy and on-task as a pro, has the talent to be a star in the right situation. Just understand that he is a bit of a work-in-progress as a blocker and as a route runner.
Ebron was asked at the combine about the evolution of the tight end position and he had a good response. "It's become more demanding, the tight end position. There's become more of a need for talent, speed, and athleticism rather than big bulky blocking tight ends. It's become a need of special people to play that position in order to create different mismatches and better offenses, so I feel like I fit right in." From an ability perspective, we agree.
Ebron’s also well aware of the perception regarding his blocking. "They ask a lot. Every team wants a complete tight end, an all purpose tight end not one that can just run down the seam and catch passes. They want a guy that can block too. I tell them that I've been working hard on it, which I have, and that I'm not bad at it, which everyone thinks but we'll see."
We don’t think Ebron is bad at all when it comes to blocking. In fact, we think he can be very good. He needs to bone up on his technique, but the big key is his effort. He’s a bit disinterested at times on film. To Ebron’s credit, he seems to realize that blocking is a bigger priority at the next level and we see no reason that he can’t continue to mature.
When asked to describe his style of play, Ebron was direct. "Fast. I play fast. I'm a little bit faster than most." One thing this kid does not lack is confidence.
Let’s take a look at Ebron’s combine data.
- Height - 6’4”
- Weight - 250 lbs
- Hands - 10”
- 40 - 4.60
- Bench - 24
- Vertical Jump - 32”
- Broad Jump - 120”
Not bad at all. Ebron is definitely an explosive athlete with prototypical size for the position. The way we see it, the key for him will be the interview process. He’s a smart kid and he knows the right answers to the questions, but teams will be looking to get a feel for his motor. Our guess is that teams will happily take the gamble with this kid. There’s just too much upside to pass up when you consider how many teams are still searching for a high-end tight end.
Let’s take a look at Ebron’s better qualities as we see them.
- Size - He has the size and height to be a handful for safeties down the seam and to block effectively when called upon.
- Speed - Guys who run 4.60 at 250 pounds are a rare breed. He’s a seam weapon at the next level for sure.
- Release - We like the way Ebron gets off the line and he can improve his technique to take things to the next level.
- Athleticism - This is Ebron’s calling card. He moves like a big time athlete in much the same way that Washington’s Jordan Reed does and he’s got a size edge on Reed. What he does not have is Reed’s feel for the game.
- Hands - This is a heavily qualified plus, but he has all the pass-catching talent he needs. Ebron does have a disconcerting number of drops, but most are of the concentration lapse variety. It’s similar to Kelvin Benjamin’s woes though not quite as pronounced. We expect Ebron to catch the ball well at the next level.
- Competitiveness - This is a big one for Ebron. I think his competitiveness is what coaches at the next level can tap into. Ebron is a player who wants to do well and he doesn’t like losing, but he often lacks maturity in situations where he is not the heart of the play call. The right coaching can help him a lot in this regard.
- Production - The big tight end improved his stats each season and he has a lot more upside as a pro, where he will get more help from his quarterback than he did during his time at UNC.
Here’s a solid highlight reel of Ebron’s best moments.
Here’s a look at Ebron vs Duke last season. You can see the motor issues at times in this clip. You can also see his tendency to round off his routes, which we'd like to see some improvement on.
And here’s a look at Ebron’s final college game in The Belk Bowl 2014 vs. Cincinnati. I like the blocking effort for the most part, both in-line and in space. You can see another big concentration drop on the long ball and a few more rounded off routes. Still, the talent is obvious to spot for the most part.
It’s hard to see a player this diverse and talented slipping very far in the draft. He could probably go as high as the Falcons at 6 overall and I highly doubt he goes lower than the Jets at 18. I’d say his most likely landing spot is the Giants at 12 as they have a pretty big need at the position. As much as I have hyped on some of Ebron's negatives, this is a player who can do big things at the next level if he makes the necessary improvements. Whether that happens will depend heavily on the player's level of commitment and the kind of coaching he receives.
As with all players we evaluate prior to the draft, Ebron’s fantasy value, especially in redraft leagues, is still very much in limbo. If he lands with a team like the Falcons or Giants, he could be a significant fantasy factor as a rookie, but if he lands on a team with no offensive identity, he could have a longer curve. Ebron should be on the radar for all those playing in long term and dynasty formats. He’ll probably be our highest rated rookie at the position.
I’ll be back with another rookie tomorrow.
Other 2014 Scouting Reports:
- Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
- Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A & M
- Dustin Vaughan, QB, West Texas A & M
- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
- Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
- Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
- L'Damian Washington, WR, Missouri
- Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
- Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming
- Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
- Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
- Dri Archer, RB, Kent State
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