We are well on our way to breaking down as many players as possible leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft. Several of these players that we are scouting are potentially fits for the Pittsburgh Steelers and we hope you enjoy these profiles.
Today, we’ll discuss North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron.
Eric Ebron/TE North Carolina: 6’4 245
– Classic NFL hybrid tight end
– Deceptive speed
– Gets off line well
– Willing blocker
– In-line experience
– Above average route runner
– Will only be 21
– Large catch radius
– Doesn’t always use size as an advantage
– Mental lapses led to drops
– Not great in traffic
– Will short arm catches at times
– Limited red zone production
– Could be more physical
– In-line blocking needs work
– Needs to get stronger
– Not great on special teams
– 2013 All-ACC First Team
– 2013 Mackey Award Finalist
– 2013 Midseason All-America First Team – Phil Steele
– 2013 Midseason All-America Second Team – SI.com, CBSSports.com
– 2013 Mackey Award Midseason Watch List
– 2013 Preseason All-ACC
– 2013 Mackey Award Watch List
– 2012 All-ACC Second Team (Coaches and Media)
– 64.6% catch rate in 2013
– 10 third down catches resulting in 9 first downs in 2013
– 13 catches of 20 yards or more in 2013
– 2 red zone touchdown catches on 9 total targets in 2013.
Ebron is a classic hybrid tight end type that can not only play in the slot, but out wide as well. This also includes lining up as an in-line blocker. He is athletic and possesses great control of his body. In the NFL these days, teams try to be as multiple as they possibly can on offense in order to create mismatches based on what personnel and defenses they face.
As a route runner, Ebron looks fluid off of the line and being as he is usually never pressed, he gets off the line quickly and out into his routes without issue. He will easy run away from linebackers and most safeties up the seam or on a shallow cross and depending on the cornerback that he faces, can gain separation on the outside. Due to his hybridness, North Carolina wasn’t afraid to use him on quick screens to either side of the field. You really don’t see too much of that in the NFL.
As far as Ebron’s athleticism goes, the play below is a great example of it. He gets off of the line quickly out of a three-point stance, makes his cut on the shallow cross and hurdles his first would-be tackler.
The next two plays are good examples of Ebron’s catch radius. One is a superb one-handed catch of a poor throw, while the other features him plucking a ball down near his feet.
Ebron has his warts, however, as he didn’t show to be great at making catches in traffic in the games I watched. In addition, he had his share of drops in 2013 as well. Below are examples.
This was a great route out of the slot and down the seam, but he fails to haul in the perfect pass with a defensive back bearing down on him.
In this clip, he again short-arms the pass in traffic at the goal-line and the ball goes right off of his hands when it should have been an easy touchdown.
Ebron really does have deceptive long speed and as a result he can run away from people after the catch like he did below against Miami.
Below is a good example of Ebron being split outside wide against a cornerback playing press. He easily gets separation on an angle route and secures the catch for a first down.
As far as Ebron’s blocking goes, he is much better out in space than he is in-line. He has the willingness and basics down when taking on athletic pass rushers or big defensive tackles, but every two successful blocks you will find on tape, there is an instance or two of him getting blown up as well. He needs a stronger base underneath him, and must get stronger up top. His in-line technique needs a lot of work, but at least it is not foreign to him. Below are some clips of both good and bad.
Ebron is certain to be the first or second tight end off the board in May and he should be available to the Steelers at 15. If he is to be the successor to Heath Miller, it will be because the team firmly believes that he can develop a lot more as an in-line blocker. However, he will never be the blocker that Miller was early on his career, in my opinion. I know that’s asking a lot, but that may factor greatly into whether or not he’s selected 15th overall. He is still young, however, and figures to fill out his frame a little more at the next level. Maybe I am underestimating him a little, so we’ll see. Ebron is a dangerous weapon to have in the passing game and several teams such as the New England Patriots will value that, especially being that he is more well-rounded than most.
Unless anything character related pops up with Ebron, I expect him to be drafted somewhere in the first round and most likely within the top 25 picks. If he falls past that range, I doubt he makes it past the Patriots.
Projection: Top Twenty-Five
Games Watched: vs. Miami, vs. Duke, vs. Cincinnati (Bowl)