Opinion: Lions Ebroff with First Pick

Entering the 2014 NFL Draft, the last thing Lions fans had on their minds was drafting a tight end with the 10th overall pick. With the new four-year contract signed by Brandon Pettigrew and the emergence of undrafted rookie Joe Fauria, tight end looked to be a position of strength.

When the Lions picked Eric Ebron out of North Carolina, fans everywhere were perplexed. With Joe Lombardi coming over from the Saints as offensive coordinator, the assumption was Ebron would be used as a Jimmy Graham-type player.

Halfway through the season, fans all around are still wondering when this Graham-type player is going to break out.

Through the first eight games of the season, Ebron has been targeted 20 times with 10 receptions for 103 yards and one touchdown. Looking at these stats, one would think that those numbers are fairly low for a player taken 10th overall.

Let’s compare Ebron’s numbers to all the pass catchers taken in the first and second rounds of the 2014 NFL draft:

5th: Sammy Watkins REC: 38 YDS: 590 TD: 5
7th: Mike Evans REC:32 YDS:460 TD:4
10th: Eric Ebron (TE) REC:10 YDS:103 TD:1
12th: Odell Beckham Jr. REC:18 YDS:262 TD:3
20th: Brandin Cooks REC:43 YDS:410 TD:2
28th: Kelvin Benjamin REC:40 YDS:589 TD:5
38th: Austin Seferian Jenkins (TE) REC:13 YDS:168 TD:1
39th: Marqise Lee REC:12 YDS:128 TD:0
42nd: Jordan Matthews REC:32 YDS:313 TD:3
45th: Paul Richardson REC:10 YDS:72 TD:0
49th: Jace Amaro (TE) REC:32 YDS:285 TD:1
52nd: Troy Niklas (TE) REC:1 YDS:16 TD:0
53rd: Davante Adams REC:24 YDS:263 TD:2
56th: Cody Latimer REC:0 YDS:0 TD:O
61st: Allen Robinson REC:43 YDS:488 TD:2
63rd: Jarvis Landry REC:30 YDS:301 TD:2

Looking at these statistics, Ebron has the fourth-worst stats out of all the pass catchers taken in the first two rounds. It could be said that he has been injured the last two games and his stats could be higher, but so were Watkins, Beckham Jr. and Lee, who have all managed to compile more stats in the same or in a shorter period of time.

Another argument could also be made that this is only half of the season and he still has time to get things together, but as the weeks go by, that becomes less believable.

The Lions have been without Calvin Johnson for nearly a month, along with injuries to Pettigrew and Fauria. Ebron simply has not stepped up. Some Lions fans would be quick to put blame on Stafford for Ebron’s low production, but that argument is simply invalid. Geno Smith, Blake Bortles and Mike Glennon are all having sub-par NFL seasons, but yet their rookie receivers are outperforming Ebron.

To top all of this off, since being drafted by the Lions, no media source has said anything about Ebron. Typically during training camp you hear about players making nice plays, impressing coaches, showing raw talent and so on. Not one thing was said about Ebron during all of training camp or during the first half of the NFL season. One would think that is because he has not shown anyone anything to talk about, and that is a problem when you are the 10th player taken overall.

When you watch a football game you can tell what type of presence a player has, even if he does not impact the game. Watching Ebron play, he just lacks that presence. He does not look like a first-round pick running routes. He looks like a mid-round pick trying to find his way. For some players that is alright, but top 10 players should make a person say “Hey, that guy has potential.”

Although Lions fans may hate to admit it, Ebron is looking similar to Mike Williams, the tenth overall pick by the Lions in 2005. Williams finished his rookie season playing in 14 games with 29 receptions, 350 yards and one touchdown. I do not know about you, but Ebron seems to be right on course to finish with similar numbers.

The NFL season is halfway over and the Lions are living on a prayer that their first round pick can show his worth. It is too early in Ebron’s career to label him as a bust, but it is very clear the Lions could have chosen someone different.