Eric Ebron was drafted 10th overall as a first round draft pick by the Detroit Lions in this year’s 2014 draft. The controversy at that point had already begun, with complaints that improving the receiving depth was the least of the Lions’ worries for next season.
Then camp started. Immediately the rookie was being scrutinized for dropping passes in practice while having a difficult time learning all the routes. After being defended by Jim Caldwell and the entire Lions’ coaching staff who are still ecstatic about the tight end addition, I’m here to tell you I couldn’t agree more.
After losing his role model and grandfather at age 10, Ebrons’ shining personality started to shut down. The family then moved to North Carolina, where Ebron chose to focus on basketball early in his high school career. Later on, Ebron’s mother encouraged him to get involved in football again by attending a camp held by the University of North Carolina.
When Ebron entered UNC camp, his experience had been limited to pee-wee football. Ebron was put at receiver in the pouring rain where his standout receiving abilities became immediately obvious. He caught virtually everything thrown his way and the rest is history. He went on the break the ACC single season receiving yards record with 973 yards his junior year at North Carolina.
So Ebron has dropped a few passes in training camp with the Lions. Actually, it’s been noted at least one obvious drop a practice. But this can’t be the first time a rookie draft pick, learning an entirely new system, found the first few days to be an adjustment period.
Caldwell acknowledged the tight end position being enforced by the coaching staff as a tough transition. “The guy literally has to know the slot receiver, the regular tight end and also a position out of the backfield as if he’s a fullback. So it’s not easy for him.” Coming from college, many receivers and tight ends take awhile to learn a new system.
As the routes and playbook become natural to Ebron, he believes his concentration can shift to catching the football. “It’s just a mental blockage. It’s me overthinking my assignments and my alignments and making sure I’m right. While all of those are playing in my head, here comes a 90 mile-an-hour fastball from Matthew Stafford.”
I’m not going as far as to rate Ebron a winner in training camp. The rookie has a lot to learn and must be able to channel the challenges he faces into positive gains for the Lions. On Saturday, day six, Ebron pulled in a launched pass from Stafford a massive gain that had new headlines being written. The potential being talked about all offseason was finally seen on the field.
Overall, Ebron is a mismatch in man coverage. He has the speed, agility and balance to beat the secondary with is route running abilities and dynamic acceleration. He was praised in the NFL combine as being a “threat on every level.” I don’t think one of the best tight ends from this years’ draft is going to continue through a season unable to accomplish the one thing he is being paid to do: catch the football.