To get to know Detroit Lions first-round pick Eric Ebron, a tight end from North Carolina, I sent five questions to Brian Barbour from Tar Heel Blog, SB Nation's Tar Heels blog. Here's a look at what he had to say about Ebron:
1. The Lions plan to line Ebron up out wide and in the slot quite a bit in a Jimmy Graham type of role. Is this similar to how he was used in North Carolina's offense, or was he more of a traditional tight end?
UNC runs Larry Fedora's spread offense, which means Ebron was all over the field. He would line up wide, in the slot and also as a traditional tight end. His speed and freak athleticism made him a tough matchup for the opposing defense, and Fedora did everything he could to get the ball in the hands of one of his best weapons. In short, Ebron should have little trouble being used in that manner.
2. We've heard a lot about Ebron's issues with drops in college, and there's some concern about how reliable he will be in the passing game at the NFL level. Based on what you saw of Ebron at North Carolina, do you think the drops issue is overblown at all?
While it never struck me as a huge issue, there were passes he dropped which he should have caught. A couple of those happened in the end zone. At the same time, Ebron made his share of jaw-dropping catches, showing good hands and great concentration. It is probably something worth watching. Again, it never seemed like a big issue, but the NFL is a different animal, so it will be interesting to see how it pans out.
3. Although Ebron will play a lot of wide receiver, there will still be times where he's called upon to block as a tight end. How was he as a blocker in college?
Ebron should be fine blocking. Given his importance as one of UNC's primary weapons, he probably did it less than a traditional tight end would, but he still should be effective when asked to block.
4. Despite putting up an impressive number of yards over the years (1,805), Ebron finished his North Carolina career with only 8 touchdowns. Was there any specific reason behind why he didn't find the end zone more often?
This was actually a point of emphasis from Larry Fedora prior to the season. He set a goal for Ebron, saying he wanted to see him catch 12 touchdown passes during the 2013 season. Ebron ended up with three. It is unclear why he didn't catch more touchdowns. UNC's spread offense had a tendency to see the ball spread around to multiple receivers, not to mention Ebron was a focal point for opposing defenses. UNC didn't have a strong running game nor were any of the other receivers the primary option in the passing game during his junior season. It was clearly a goal set by the UNC staff, and based on his athleticism and whatnot, Ebron should have been a more prolific touchdown catcher but wasn't.
5. What one play from Ebron's career at North Carolina best exemplifies his abilities as a pass catcher?
On a Thursday night against Miami, Ebron had 199 yards receiving and a 71-yard touchdown catch. Ebron took what should have been a modest gain and turned it into six.