With the Super Bowl in the books and the 2014 season already a distant memory, it’s time to look forward to the 2015 NFL season. Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron is doing just that as he looks to use his rookie season as a learning experience as a means of morphing into the player he knows he can become. He even seems to be excited about off season workouts.
“I feel like it couldn’t get here fast enough,” said Ebron. “I’m dying for OTAs this offseason.”
When the Lions drafted Ebron with the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, many fans buried their face in their hands. I, for one, can remember having a few choice words for Martin Mahew that I shouted out towards my television. After all, how in the world can you justify drafting a tight end 10th overall when you have other pressing needs?
Then I started hearing reports that Ebron could be a Jimmy Graham type player, so I started to try my best to think positive about the situation. The thought came to my head: did the Lions just draft a future Hall of Fame tight end? When a team takes a tight end 10th overall, that has to be the thought, right? I mean, why else would you do it?
In his rookie season, Ebron played in a total of 13 games and caught only 28 balls for 248 yards and 1 touchdown. Let’s not sugarcoat this, those are nowhere near even approaching Hall of Fame numbers. According to ESPN.com, 32 tight ends caught more passes than Ebron did last season, also not something for the Hall of Fame resume.
That being said, Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe only caught 7 passes during his rookie campaign, and he turned out to be a stud. To make further comparisons, Jimmy Graham caught only 31 balls in his first year with 5 touchdowns and Rob Gronkowski caught 42 balls with 10 touchdowns in his rookie season.
Ebron clearly underachieved this season, rookie year or not, but Lions GM Martin Mahew is far from giving up on him. He expects that Ebron will produce more during his 2nd year in the league.
“I think he dealt with some typical rookie issues in learning the offense,” Mayhew told the team’s website. “I think he got a lot better as the season went on, even after the hamstring (which forced him to miss three games).
Ebron admits that his rookie season was a whirlwind, and that even learning the playbook was very difficult for him. This is something that he vows to improve on this off season.
“There’s a lot of things to get better at. Now that you understand the game plan in the NFL, it’s all about improving on that,” said Ebron.
Experience alone will make a huge difference this coming season, not only for Ebron, but for the entire offense. Remember, it was not just the rookie tight end that had to learn a new playbook, but the offense as a whole, as Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi was also in his first season with the team.
Ebron admittedly needs to improve on every aspect of his game, but the 21-year-old has the athletic ability and the tools to do it. With good coaching and experience, there is no reason he cannot become a top tier tight end in the NFL.
Will Eric Ebron ever live up to the 10th overall pick in the draft? Time will tell, but I am not ready to count him out yet. Look for a huge improvement in the upcoming season, not just statistically speaking, but in his all around feel for the game.