Welcome to the preview of what is the most underrated position when it comes to fantasy football and scouting future prospects in your leagues … it’s the tight ends. These players can often make or break your season. If you find a gem, you get a major boost to go alongside your top selections. If you end up picking some busts, then you are scrambling to make up the missing points week after week. So, where do you start when it comes to finding that roster-changing player? Yep, it’s the NFL draft.
Recently, the NFL Draft has been producing fantasy gems at the tight end position year after year. These deep draft classes have created major depth at the position when it comes to making your fantasy selections. You could call the 2010 NFL Draft the “Year of the Tight End.” There are nine guys that have busted onto the scene with varying levels of success. Some became NFL cornerstones at their positions and some became serviceable players on your fantasy roster. The big stars from that class may be Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, but there are solid players like Jermaine Gresham, Dennis Pitta, Garrett Graham, Andrew Quarless, Ed Dickson, Tony Moeaki, and Aaron Hernandez (before the whole murder trial).
While this year’s crop is not as deep as that one, the draft class in 2014 does have some high-level performers that can do some major damage at the next level and some guys that can make an impact in the future. In the forthcoming days, I will break down my top 10 tight ends in the 2014 NFL Draft.
- Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina (6-4, 250)
I talked a bit about Eric Ebron in the Belk Bowl breakdown in December and I am still just as high on him now as I was then. Ebron is a legit talent at 6’4” and 250 pounds that can both stretch a defense with his speed and post up in the middle of the defense to provide his quarterback a big target that is hard to miss. Ebron will be a top 10, first round pick given his production at North Carolina and his athletic ability. He should also be a major factor on the fantasy football radars in 2014 as a potential top five tight end talent (yes I’m that high on Ebron’s ability).
Ebron caught 62 passes for 973 yards and three scores in 2013, a pretty good set of numbers for a guy that was spotlighted by opposing defenses as the main weapon for North Carolina. He has 4.6 speed (good top-end speed for a tight end) and has the movement skills to beat a defense vertically up the field. His explosive ability off the line of scrimmage, whether on the line or in the slot, and acceleration down the field makes him the most dangerous offensive weapon in the draft, especially if he hits the seams in a zone defense (he has the size and leaping ability to go over safeties in coverage). He does have problems in his route running ability and he sometimes telegraphs his routes to opposing defenders, allowing them to disrupt his progression down the field. He needs to show more craftiness and physicality at the next level in order to keep defenders from doing this on a regular basis (nothing that some extra coaching cannot fix).
He is a very durable player that has shown the ability to play through pain throughout his career at North Carolina. He also has the big hands, long arms and solid body control that allows him to reel in crazy catches. While he can make the spectacular happen in the receiving game, what is surprising is the fact that he leads the tight end prospects in drops; thus, concentration may be something that needs to be worked on at the next level to avoid this major issue. As with most receiving-heavy tight ends, he struggles with blocking consistently, but has shown effort to improve (even though the results are not always there).
I see Ebron as a special talent that can develop into a top five tight end in the next few years. He has the offensive ability and size to create havoc within opposing defenses. He is too fast for most linebackers and too big for most safeties. I compare him to a Julius Thomas or Vernon Davis (high-level players) with respect to size and ability. The drops concern me, but can be corrected for him to become a major force for the team that drafts him.
Here’s the ACC Digital Network’s prospect profile for Eric Ebron: