It’s hard building a team, real or fantasy, when you miss on a first-round pick. It’s even more difficult to overcome an early mistake in the first round.
Not that tight end Eric Ebron was a “mistake”, but the Detroit Lions drafted him 10th overall in 2014 under the assumption that he’d be another weapon in an already loaded offense. It hasn’t exactly worked out that way.
Ebron has started just 15 games in his two-year NFL career. Last season, he played in 14 total games and made 47 catches for 537 yards and five touchdowns. Ebron averaged just 5.98 fantasy points per week.
Even still, that was good enough for 13th among tight ends in standard scoring leagues,which left open the possibility of Ebron becoming a fringe TE-1 in 12 or 14-team leagues this year.
Here are the pros and cons for targeting Ebron, who has to be considered one of the most polarizing fantasy tight ends heading into 2016.
Undervalued in the draft market
Fantasy Pros ranks the 23-year-old the 14th-best fantasy tight end going into this fall. That seems kind of high based on his underwhelming stats, but again, those numbers were enough for him to finish 13th at tight end in standard leagues a year ago.
Therefore, that’s probably the appropriate place to target him, but a majority of owners aren’t doing that. Most owners apparently feel betrayed by Ebron’s disappointing 2015 season, so his ADP has dropped off the table.
The Lions tight end has a 179.0 overall ADP according to Fantasy Pros. That means in a 14-team league, owners can grab a low-end TE-1 in the 13th round. Fantasy Pros has rated Ebron the 129th best overall player, which makes him a value pickup. Owners can grab him 50 selections after the experts at Fantasy Pros believe he should go.
This isn’t unusual at all. Players overhyped out of college, like Ebron was, who fail to live up to expectations naturally fall further than they should in the next season’s ADP list. This is definitely happening to the Lions tight end this summer, and owners should take advantage.
One of the biggest reasons Ebron has been highly regarded the last couple years is his upside. He’s an extremely gifted athlete that many hoped would become a red zone monster in an offense that already had Calvin Johnson.
And in his rookie season, quarterback Matthew Stafford was coming off three straight 4,600 passing yard seasons, two of which were well over 4,900 yards. Stafford also led the league in passing attempts in 2011 and 2012.
If the Lions reverted back to this type of offense, especially with Johnson’s targets now up for grabs because he retired, Ebron is going to have a plethora of opportunities to make a fantasy splash.
The Lions Offense
That being said, the Detroit offense is also a con. Last year, Stafford attempted the fewest amount of passes in any season where he started all 16 games. Stafford was also 20th in yards per pass in 2015, and he has never finished higher than 11th among starting quarterbacks in yards per attempt.
And as much as it might help that Johnson’s 149 targets are available to other receivers and tight ends this season, the quality in those opportunities might go down because the Lions no longer have a pass-catcher that can truly stretch the field.
Detroit already struggled to push the ball downfield last year, and it could potentially be worse this season, especially if the running game stalls again.
There simply isn’t as much upside in this offense as most people think.
The Lions tight end missed more than two weeks due to an ankle injury, came back for a day, and now is back on the bench with ankle problems according to MLive.com. Rotoworld says that he is still on track to start Week 1, but MLive.com reports there is no word on when he could return.
This leaves fantasy owners high and dry in regards to whether this should affect his draft stock. But at this point, there is some risk targeting Ebron 14th overall among tight ends. There is no guarantee he is going to be ready, and at the very least, he hasn’t worked out with Stafford all month, so there’s little chance the two’s chemistry has improved from last year.
Due to the injury, fantasy owners are going to have to monitor Ebron’s status up until draft day. Should he return to the field, target him as a backup tight end in 10-team leagues. He’s a fringe, high-risk, high-reward starter in 14-team or larger formats.