There may be way too much on Eric Ebron’s plate. The Detroit Lions are not only expecting him to learn how to play tight end in the NFL, but also serve as a wide receiver and even work out of the backfield. Expectations from fans are that Ebron is going to help the Lions finally win the division and spread the field allowing Calvin Johnson more opportunities to score. Odds are very much against Ebron doing so.
Comparisons have been made between Ebron and Jimmy Graham and I pointed out before that those are incorrect. Graham is faster, taller, has a wider reach and has shown himself to have better hands than Ebron did in college. That all being said, Jimmy Graham as a rookie in New Orleans caught 31 passes for five touchdowns during his first season. That’s one comparison the Lions are hoping that Ebron doesn’t live up to.
The NFL game is faster than the college game. When watching a college game, you’re lucky if you are watching one or two players that make the NFL during each matchup, let alone become stars. Obviously some of the marquis matchups have more than that, but on average, that’s the reality. Ebron won’t be leaps and bounds better than the players covering him anymore. He will have to execute better than he ever has, and that’s not to say he can’t, but just means we should temper our expectations for him and what he will accomplish as a rookie. With the Lions asking him to learn so much so fast and contribute to the offense on so many levels, execution will certainly take a hit during this season for Ebron.
Maybe Ebron will do more than most rookies, the Lions certainly expect that he will or they wouldn’t have used the 10th overall pick on him. Even Brandon Pettigrew had similar stats to Graham in his rookie season, while only playing 11 games, so he would have faired better to some extent if he’d stayed healthy. Tony Gonzalez though, probably the greatest receiving tight end of all time, only managed 33 receptions and two touchdowns in his rookie year. Wide receivers have also struggled in their rookie years. The great Jerry Rice managed just caught only 49 balls and our very own Calvin Johnson had 48 receptions their first year.
There are exceptions to every rule. Maybe Ebron will be just that, but in all reality, drafting Ebron once again goes against what the Lions have been preaching all off season. Mayhew, Lewand and coach Jim Caldwell are expected to take the Lions to the super bowl. Eric Ebron will likely not be a major factor in that happening this year.