Eric Ebron – North Carolina
Age when drafted: 21
Hometown: Greensboro, NC
Collegiate Number: 85
Combine notables: N/A
Games Viewed: 2012 – Louisville, Miami, NC State, Maryland
Eric Ebron attended Ben L. Smith High School, where he was the 8th ranked TE in the country by ESPNU. Ebron was a standout on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball in high school. As a senior he caught 28 balls for 682 yards and 10 touchdowns, while accounting for 13.5 sacks at defensive end.
Ebron selected North Carolina over the likes of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisville, and a host of other major programs.
Ebron’s impact was felt immediately at UNC. As a freshman in 2011 he caught 10 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown. However his season didn’t end on a high note as he was unable to play in the Independence Bowl due to academic issues. It was clear from day one that Ebron had NFL skills as he combines speed and athleticism with surprising in-line blocking skills.
Ebron’s breakout year would come in 2012 as a sophomore as he emerged into Bryn Renner’s favorite target. Ebron started 11 games (missed Virginia game due to illness) notching 625 yards on 40 receptions and 4 touchdowns.
At 6-foot-4, 245 pounds Ebron has more than enough size but lacks the ideal bulk. He’s played in the 225-235 range at UNC but is listed at 245 pounds on the team’s official site.
Ebron flexes out and plays in-line at UNC – which is good for NFL talent evaluators as he will be asked to do both at the next level. Ebron is a standout athlete that borders on being considered an elite athlete at the position. His combination of speed, agility, and strength gives him few peers in the collegiate game and will endear him to NFL teams in search of a Jimmy Graham type.
WHAT HE DOES WELL:
It all starts with Ebron’s ability to create a matchup nightmare for teams. Larry Fedora used Ebron all over the field, exposing weaknesses in the defense. NFL teams will be looking to do the same thing with this special athlete. His versatility alone could push him up teams draft boards as team’s look for flexibility in winning matchups. It should be noted that Ebron lined up at defensive end for the Tar Heels in 2012 – where he showed he could be an effective situational pass rusher.
I came away from the Ebron most impressed with his strength. For someone that lacked considerable bulk at the TE position – I thought he not only held up but at times excelled as an in-line blocker. While he’s not going to be moving NFL ends around at will, his ability to wall off defenders and keep his feet moving should make him a more than adequate blocker. In a heavy zone-blocking scheme, he would excel as a move blocker working into the second level.
He’s explosive in and out breaks and after the catch. He’s so tough to bring down in open space for corners and safeties due to his size and athletic ability. While he wasn’t a refined route runner (in terms of a wide array of routes), his ability to get in and out of breaks with explosion will make him a tough guard at the next level.
I think it starts with versatility with this kid but ends with potential. There are some things to work out in his game – as we’ll highlight next but the sky is the limit for him. His ceiling may be higher than Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Colt Lyerla – two very highly rated TE prospects.
WHAT HE NEEDS TO WORK ON:
Let’s face it you have to catch the ball to be effective at the TE position and he hasn’t done that with consistency. There are too many times that Ebron doesn’t come up with the catch for me to rank him ahead of the aforementioned Jenkins and Lyerla.
Ebron got away with what would have surely been holds in the NFL. He allows his hands to work outside the defender on more than one occasion. It became a trend in his technique, which is concerning for him at the next level. Ebron has to keep his hands inside in order to avoid being flagged game in and game out in the NFL. While I was impressed with him as a blocker, there is still work that needs to be done in this area for him to jump from good enough to great in-line blocker.
Ebron gets a little sloppy in routes. There were multiple times were he either rushed into the break or got lazy in or out of it – affecting his ability to separate. He’s such a great athlete that it goes relatively unnoticed but that won’t be the case in the NFL.
Academic issues with Ebron in 2011 kept him out of the team’s bowl game.
Eric Ebron has the potential to be a special TE in what is becoming a TE-happy league. He’s a rare specimen as few could challenge him from an athletic standpoint in the NFL.
He’s just scratching the surface of what he can be – a scary proposition given his already productive career at UNC. Ebron may be the most physically gifted of a special threesome of underclassmen TE’s (Ebron, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Colt Lyerla).
If Ebron can catch the ball more consistently in 2013, he could challenge to be the top tight end in the 2014 NFL Draft, should he declare.