TE Eric Ebron wasn't always sharp during the Detroit Lions' offseason program. He struggled with drops early in OTAs. But by send-off day, he flashed the possibility of what could be.
Ebron appeared to be far more comfortable in the offense during last week's minicamp, and capped it off on the final day by hauling in one remarkable sliding catch with safety Isa Abdul-Quddus draped all over him. It was one of the finest catches of the offseason.
"It's lovely now," Ebron said. "Figuring out the offense. It'll never be 100 percent, but at least knowing what to do, where to lineup, where to be. Now I can do the things that got me here.
"I'm starting to earn a lot more respect. I'm starting to produce a lot more, and I'm starting to get a lot more reps."
The Lions want Ebron to fill the Jimmy Graham role in new OC Joe Lombardi’s offense, so he should see playing time immediately despite the presence of Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria. Of the 21 tight ends who have been drafted in the first round in the last 10 years, 14 have managed to play at least 14 games. They averaged 35-371-2.6, or #31 TE numbers. (Oddly enough, that's where Brandon Pettigrew finished in 2013.) It usually takes a while for a young tight end to make a fantasy impact, though there has been the occasional exception. Jeremy Shockey (#3 TE in 2002), Heath Miller (#11 in 2005) and Dustin Keller (#14 in 2008) all posted TE1 or fringe-TE1 numbers as rookie first round picks. Cam Cleeland, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and John Carlson all had a TE1-type impact as rookies even though they weren't drafted in the first round. Ebron is an intriguing TE2-type in a potent offense, but he's no shoo-in to make a big fantasy impact in his first season, especially if he’s struggling to learn the offense.