Lions GM Martin Mayhew and Co. hope they have the next Jimmy Graham. At least that’s how they’ve explained the job to draft pick Eric Ebron.
“The same way Jimmy Graham was (used) when (new OC Joe Lombardi) was coaching Jimmy Graham,” Ebron told reporters in a conference call after the pick about the role coaches have told him he'll have.
Ebron explained that he and Graham are very different players, but the role still fits.
Lombardi spent the last five years as the quarterback coach in New Orleans and watched Graham become one of the best matchup weapons in the NFL. He’s bringing over a lot of those elements from the Saints offense to Detroit and needed to fill a role for an athletic tight end, one that could stretch the field vertically.
“They are not exactly the same players but they are both very athletic guys,” Lombardi said of the comparisons to Graham. “Jimmy has a little bit more length while Eric has a little more quickness.
“There are some things that we did with Jimmy in New Orleans that we will be able to do with Eric and maybe some things we can do with Eric that we didn’t do with Jimmy. They are both unique but (Ebron) is going to have a pretty big role in what we plan on doing.”
“The guy’s a very special offensive weapon,” Mayhew said. “I talked earlier (this offseason) at the league meetings about there being a certain number of elite, I thought, athletes and prospects in the top 10. He’s one of those guys I was talking about.
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.