One of the most anticipated tight ends in the country coming into this year was North Carolina’s Eric Ebron. He looked like a yoked up wide receiver playing tight end last year, but a combination of length and speed made him an incredibly intriguing prospect with a ton of potential.
Ebron came in bigger and stronger this year, showing off more of the talent he looked like he had last season. He added ten pounds to his frame this year and was a more powerful player inline but still had the ability to line up in the slot and be a legitimate wide receiving threat.
Sep 7, 2013; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron (85) during their game against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Liz Condo-USA TODAY Sports
Going to the NFL, Ebron is a big ball of potential. His speed, quickness and developing strength make him a player with a significantly high ceiling. Ebron is legitimately able to play both tight end and wide receiver in the NFL. He is still developing as a blocker and his hands needs to continue to develop, but his potential may outweigh the issues he is still working to fix. Ebron projects as a top 50 pick but it would not be a surprise if a team took him in the first round, betting on his physical potential and the versatility he can bring to the NFL both immediately and going forward as he continues to develop and fill out his frame.
Vitals & Build
Ebron is listed at 6’4” 245lbs with quickness and speed while possessing good functional strength for his size. He is going to obviously want to continue adding strength and is probably going to try to get to around 250lbs ultimately, but the Tar Heel program, smartly, seems to be having him do it the right way and not just adding weight for the sake of adding weight, which might just make him sluggish. Ebron possesses a frame that looks like it should easily add strength and continue progressing without losing his athleticism the way they are having him do it, so he has a fantastic amount of physical potential going forward.
Route Running & Technique
In terms of his stance, from an inline stance, Ebron is lined up effectively so it he can fire off the ball cleanly and efficiently. His stance lined up outside does not look pretty, and the results are inconsistent. Ebron can fire off of the ball well but can sometimes be a half beat late. He could be more effective if he lines up lower to the ground as it would make it easier for him to be low to fire off and get a quick block with better pad level.
Along with this, Ebron does a tremendous job of selling the idea that he could be blocking before releasing into his route, which can cause opponent to hesitate in both situations. The result is that when he fires out into his route, he is able to get behind the initial defender easily and in run situations, it can result in him able to establish his block because the opponent is worried he might be going out for the pass.
When he gets out into his routes, he can show the ability to make a great plant step and get out into his cuts and he has gotten crisper with his routes overall. This is an area he needs to continue to work but he has shown he can run some routes really well. His athleticism, size, and strength make it so he can get open against just anyone trying to cover him. Ebron is simply too fast for linebackers and too big and strong for most defensive backs. He can be effective in short routes but has the speed to stretch the field vertically.
Ebron is able to create separation pretty easily at this point, but further development and really hammering out technique as a route runner could make him virtually indefensible one on one. Ebron has shown he can help create space with his hands.
One area where Ebron has shown to be really aware is finding and settling in holes in the zone. If the route does not call him to stop, he will slow play it just to give his quarterback a chance to hit him there before progressing in his route to its fruition. In situations where he is running a route and he finds a hole in the zone, he will settle in it and give his quarterback an open target to throw the ball.
Ebron’s hands are a work in progress and he shows tremendous potential in this area but needs to continue to work on this area. He demonstrates good body control and has a large catch radius as a result with the ability to catch the ball over his head or contort his body to adjust to passes thrown behind him. There is potential for him to be able to make big time catches in traffic, but he just needs more experience to be able to get more comfortable doing this and functioning in traffic.
Ebron has worked to do a better job of securing the ball when he catches it and protecting it from being stripped out by defenders; getting it into his body faster as opposed to holding it out where it can be a target. This was an issue he ran into last season but he has gotten stronger and done a better job protecting the ball.
Ebron’s ability to focus on the football can be a problem at times with wildly inconsistent results. He has shown the ability to make circus catches with one hand that are simply incredible to watch, but then will drop passes right in his hands. He has gotten better with his hands and catching the ball, but there are still too many drops.
Run After Catch
Last season, Ebron showed flashes of what he could be as a receiver after the catch. This year, those flashes have been far more frequent and Ebron has been a dangerous playmaker after the catch. He has the strong to take on contact but the quickness to set up opponents and make them miss as well. And when he has an opening, Ebron has the speed to exploit and is a home run threat.
Ebron’s added strength has paid off in a big way in regards to his blocking. He has always been a high effort blocker but his work in his positioning is also allowing him to flash some power. Ebron has active feed and works to get into position and shield off opponents.
Ebron needs to do a better job of getting an anchor to hold up against opponents who attack at him. Some of this will come with strength, but he tends to play too high and can have trouble absorbing power. Along with this, Ebron playing so high can make him have difficulty blocking out in space. He can do a better job of attacking the proper shoulder but that should get better with experience. When Ebron does get good leverage and bend, he can show more power than some might expect. He is not a power house blocker at this point in his career and may never be but better technique and consistent bend will allow him to show off his power more often.
Ebron needs to break down better in the open field to make sure he does not overrun or get too high, allowing opponents to slip past him or get him off balance. When he does, he can be a dangerous crack back blocker.
From a technical and effort standpoint, Ebron makes up for a lot of his lack of size. Further strength and consistent use of technique could allow him to be a far better blocker than some might expect.
The only thing that really limits the fit of Ebron is the imagination of the team that is looking at him. He appears able to play legitimately as a wide receiver or tight end and can easily be used inline or on the outside, so unless there is a team that does not like a big receiver or an up and coming inline prospect, he seems like he can fit somewhere on every team. He is probably best suited to play on a team that will use him at both spots in their system depending on the situation, so the best fit is on a team who is willing to be creative with both their offensive scheme as well as his role.
Ebron appears to be similar to Julius Thomas of the Denver Broncos. It took a few years for him to develop after being drafted from Portland State but he has the same type of game breaking speed in a huge frame that Ebron possesses. Ebron shows more in terms of his ability to block coming into the league, which makes him stand out as a slightly undersized tight end.
Eric Ebron has demonstrated a good amount of growth in the past year, both physically and as a football player. He has gotten added strength which has helped him in how he physical he can be as a route runner and after the catch but it has also helped him become more effective as a blocker. His hands and blocking are still works in progress but the future appears quite bright and it appears to be a matter of ‘when’ as opposed to ‘if’. He shows the ability to be both an inline player as well as out of the slot. Ebron projects as a top 50 pick based on what he demonstrates on the field, but it would hardly be a surprise to see him go in the first round based on his athletic potential and future rather than what he brings to the table out of the gate.
Some of the film used for this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com