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NFL Detroit Lions

Grading the Detroit Lions’ First-Round Selection of Eric Ebron

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions made one of the biggest splashes of the 2014 NFL Draft’s first round by selecting North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron.

From a pure talent perspective, it’s difficult to argue that Ebron wasn’t worthy the No. 11 overall choice. He has the speed and route-running prowess to consistently leave linebackers in the dust and the size and large-catch radius to make life difficult for defensive backs.

As essentially a glorified wide receiver, Ebron spent the majority of his snaps lined up in the slot for the Tar Heels, but in Detroit, he’ll undoubtedly be asked to line up as a true tight end more often. Some have concerns about Erbon’s blocking ability in those situations, but he showed a toughness and willingness to block on film at the collegiate level.

His technique as a blocker needs refinement, but when it comes to blocking, willingness is half the battle. Ebron was certainly willing in the ACC and could become a complete player if he continues to be a the next level.

Make no mistake, though, his pass catching ability is what sets him apart. Some have compared him to elite tight ends like Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis as a pure talent. Those comparisons might be a slight stretch considering Ebron doesn’t have Graham’s size or Davis’ speed, but the Lions’ newest weapon has an elite ceiling nonetheless.

In order to reach his full potential, though, Ebron will need to establish a consistent level of concentration. He dropped over 11 percent of his targets at North Carolina, which might be a bit misleading given the shoddy play at quarterback he was subjected to, but it’s still a concerning figure. Erbon routinely made difficult catches, however, including jaw-dropping one-handed snags from time to time. If he can make the seemingly impossible receptions, he’s certainly capable of making the easy ones more consistently.

But is Ebron really a great fit in Detroit? It’s difficult to envision a much better fit from the player’s perspective. The Lions attempted the fifth most passes in the entire NFL last season, which means Ebron is going to run more routes and attract more targets than he would have at most other destinations. With Matthew Stafford at quarterback, Ebron has one of the league’s better passers to catch from as opposed to landing on a team like the Buffalo Bills, who many expected to nab him, without a solidified passer.

Better yet, Ebron won’t draw the constant attention he would have received on an average or worse offense, either. There’s this guy named Calvin Johnson who plays receiver for the Lions. He’s quite good. Johnson can’t be slowed by single coverage. The incessant double teams he demands will open up endless opportunities for Ebron to eat over the middle of the field.

Detroit, in many ways, was the perfect landing spot for Ebron. From the Lions’ perspective, though, there are many who have argued the pick should have been put to better use. Jim Caldwell has inherited a club that ranked 23rd in the NFL against the pass last season and promising cornerbacks, like Kyle Fuller and Darqueze Dennard, were available.

But it’s still easy to become enamored with the potential of the Lions’ passing game now with a weapon to detract attention from Calvin Johnson or excel because of the attention “Megatron” demands.

It’s the perfect spot for Ebron. It’s a good pick by the Lions.

Grade: B+

Cody Strahm is an NFL contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.