Lions pick TE stud Ebron 10th overall

With Sammy Watkins and Justin Gilbert off the board, Detroit's pick at the 10 spot during Thursday evening's NFL draft was anyone's guess.

With holes in the secondary, the Detroit Lions opted instead to give franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford yet another weapon.

The team made University of North Carolina standout Eric Ebron the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, adding an athletic target to its offensive arsenal.

Most mock drafts projected Detroit going defense, but after odds-on favorite Justin Gilbert was snapped up by Cleveland at No. 8, the team's outlook became more ambiguous.

Ebron has been compared to Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who worked previously with Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.

"Joe was really excited about this player," Martin Mayhew told mlive.com. "He was probably his No. 2 guy in the entire draft."

Below is the book on Eric Ebron, courtesy of NFL draft expert Dave-Te' Thomas ...

Eric Ebron
Tight End
University of North Carolina Tar Heels
#85
6:04.3-250
Greensboro, North Carolina
Ben L. Smith High School

OVERVIEW

Ebron is an athletic pass-catching tight end in the mold of San Francisco's Vernon Davis, as he is a constant threat to make the big play for the North Carolina offense. Expected to be one of the nation's top tight ends following a breakout sophomore campaign that saw him establish school records for receptions (40) and receiving yards (625) by a tight end, the Mackey Award finalist went on to shatter those marks in 2013, ranking second among the major college tight ends with a team-high 62 catches for 973 yards.

The All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team selection is often lined wide, creating mismatches vs. smaller defensive backs who struggle to generate proper press coverage, as Ebron can easily escape contact and get behind his opponent to excel on getting to the long bombs. In 2013, he not only gained over 100 yards receiving in three contests, he continued to etch his name in the school record book, as his 199 yards gained vs. Miami are the most ever in a contest by a UNC tight end and placed seventh on the school game-record chart.

The Greensboro, North Carolina native recently announced that he would forgo his senior season at North Carolina and was entering his name into the 2014 NFL Draft pool. With that move anticipated by professional scouts early in the 2013 campaign, the Tar Heel has seen his draft stock rise to first round status. What impresses professional teams is that the junior displays very good overall muscle development in his legs, good bubble, defined shoulders and arms, good chest width, long arms and big hands.

Ebron can generate excellent explosion coming off the snap and his speed also allows the coaches to line him wide and capitalize on that quickness in long routes. His burst off the snap lets him consistently gain advantage. He has above average up field and lateral quickness to reach the second level and has more than enough strength to defeat the jam. When he explodes out of his stance, he immediately gains advantage to hook the nine-tech and moves his feet well to sustain when blocking.

The thing you see on film is his ability to get off the line cleanly and avoid under-coverage on the route stem. He is best when used as a seam threat, as he shows the acceleration and speed to challenge even cornerbacks on deep patterns. He also uses his hands very well to elude and break free from the pile when working through traffic.

Ebron displays very good quickness in and out of his breaks. He has superb body control to break down and make the quick cuts. In 2013, he greatly improved his ability to sink his hips and separate out of his cuts. He used to shuffle his feet and gear down in his breaks, but demonstrated better acceleration as a junior. His patterns are precise, especially vs. man coverage, and he works hard to gain leverage.

Ebron shows the ability to work back to the quarterback. He has a knack for finding and settling into the zone's soft area and shows valid feet running underneath routes. He is not the tallest tight end you will find, but still presents a nice target on short routes, displaying a good understanding for leverage and how to sit in the zone.

The North Carolina product does a very good job of extending his arms to catch the ball with his hands in front of his frame. He also plays with good aggression and does not hesitate to combat for the jump balls. His large, soft hands let him extend, pluck, snatch and secure the ball with ease. He also has the explosion and second gear to find the open seam on deep routes.

Ebron possesses good ability to track the ball in flight and has that sudden burst to break tackles after initial contact. He demonstrates the body control and ball skills to adjust down field and runs hard, knowing where to find the end zone. With more emphasis being made in the pros to involve the tight end in the passing attack, it is clear that Ebron has very good value.

Many feel that the Tar Heel junior will be one of the first tight ends drafted in 2014, due to his combination of quickness, leaping ability, speed and strength. Scouts realize that he lacks ideal height and could use more bulk, but not at the risk of losing some of his incredible speed.

Ebron has always been an elite performer, earning Super Prep All-American honors during his final season at Smith High School. He was rated the eighth-best tight end in the nation by ESPNU and ranked 20th among prep tight ends by Scout.com.

Ebron was a member of the Associated Press North Carolina All-State team as a senior, earning a roster spot on North Carolina's Shrine Bowl team, where he performed as a wide receiver. His final season at Smith High saw him make 28 catches for 682 yards and 10 touchdowns on offense after he had hauled in 24 passes for 408 yards and four scores as a junior. He also played defensive end, posting 68 tackles and 13.5 sacks in 2010.

The prize of North Carolina's 2011 recruiting class, Ebron was brought along slowly as a true freshman. He did not start any of the 10 games he appeared in, but did manage to finish sixth on the team with 10 receptions for 207 yards and a touchdown, adding a solo tackle as a member of the kickoff coverage squad.

Ebron took over tight end duties in 2011, starting all 11 games he appeared in. He set school season-records for tight ends, as he generated 625 yards on forty receptions that included four touchdowns. At that time, his 625 receiving yards ranked as the fourth-best season performance by an Atlantic Coast Conference tight end. He recorded thirty first downs, converting eight third-down tosses and 24 of his catches gained at least 10 yards, including 11 for twenty yards or longer.

As a junior, Ebron continued his assault on both the school and conference record books. He led the Tar Heels with 62 receptions for 973 yards (15.69 ypc), but found the end zone with just three of those grabs. Those figures topped his own tight end annual records at UNC, along with surpassing the ACC season-record (for tight ends) of 871 yards, set by Vernon Davis at Maryland in 2005. The only tight end to ever catch more passes in a season in league annals was Virginia's Heath Miller, who pulled down 70 balls in 2003.

Prior to the regular season finale vs. Duke, Ebron announced he would forego his final year of eligibility and enter the 2014 NFL Draft after UNC's bowl game. "I've had a great time in Chapel Hill and I appreciate everything Coach Fedora and the coaching staff has done for me," said Ebron prior to the Duke game. "Coming to Carolina allowed me to develop as both a person and a football player. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I look forward to finishing the season with my teammates and then moving on to the next level."

CAREER NOTES

The three-year performer for North Carolina has started 21-of-34 games he suited up for, establishing school career-records for tight ends with 112 receptions for 1,805 yards (16.12 ypc), adding eight touchdowns…His 112 catches topped the previous UNC all-time tight end record of 94 catches by Zack Pianalto (2007-10)…The only Atlantic Coast Conference tight end to record more receptions in a career is Heath Miller of Virginia (144; 2002-04)…His 1,805 receiving yards topped Miller's league tight end record of 1,703 yards, as Ebron became the ninth player in school annals to gain over 1,800 yards for the Tar Heels…In 2011, Ebron rewrote the school season-record books for tight ends, as he caught forty passes for 625 yards, surpassing the previous marks of 448 yards by Mike Chatham in 1979 and 36 receptions by Ryan Taylor in 2010…The only ACC tight ends to gain more receiving yards in a season were Vernon Davis of Maryland (871 in 2005), Heath Miller (835 in 2003) and Bruce McGonnigal of Virginia (634 in 1989) after the 2012 schedule, but the following year, Ebron again established new UNC tight end annual marks, as he pulled in 62 passes for 973 yards, the most yardage by an ACC tight end in a season. The only league tight end to make more catches in a campaign was Heath Miller, who came up with 70 catches in 2003…His nine receptions vs. North Carolina State in 2013 rank second on the school game-record list for tight ends, topped by Mike Chatham, who made 10 grabs vs. Wake Forest in 1979…His 199 receiving yards vs. Miami in 2013 set the UNC tight end game record and placed seventh on the school's overall record chart behind Randy Marriott (247 vs. Georgia Tech, 1987), Dwight Jones (233 vs. Florida State, 2010), Jheranie Boyd (221 vs. Louisiana State, 2010), Hakeem Nicks (217 vs. West Virginia, 2008), Octavus Barnes (211 vs. Ohio University, 1995) and Dwight Jones (198 vs. Virginia, 2010)…In his last two seasons, Ebron has caught 102-of-167 passes targeted to him (61.08%), as the opposition deflected 22 of those tosses (13.17%). The tight end produced 71 first downs among his grabs, converting 17-of-40 third-down catches, as 66 of his receptions gained at least 10 yards, including 24 for 20 yards or longer.

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