The Detroit Lions' first-round draft pick of Eric Ebron has not been met with a lot of positivity thus far. CBS gave the pick a C+ (the worst grade given out for a first-round pick this year), Walter Football also gave them a C+ and here at Pride Of Detroit the pick only has a 55% approval rating. To put that in perspective, only one team in our community mock draft had a lower approval rating in the first round.
While there are legitimate reasons to criticize this pick, I have seen a lot of arguments that don't make sense or are just flat out wrong. Let me clear up these misconceptions:
1. This is a luxury pick for a position the Lions don't need
From CBS's Pete Prisco:
This kid has a ton of talent, but is he really a need? They had other more pressing needs
This is just wrong. If you thought the Lions needed a receiver, then this pick fits a need. Ebron will be a receiver first, tight end second. The Lions have already announced that they plan on using Ebron in a Jimmy Graham-like role. If the Lions plan on adopting the New Orleans Saints' style of offense -- and it certainly seems like they do -- that role was empty. Brandon Pettigrew's days of grabbing 80+ receptions are over. Joseph Fauria was very good last year... in a very limited role. It's highly unlikely he'd ever grow to become an essential part of this offense.
Ebron brings athleticism that neither of those two have and a ceiling as high as an elite tight end. I think we can agree the Lions did not have a potential elite tight end on the roster before Thursday night.
2. This pick makes the Pettigrew re-signing look stupid
Hey, I'll even admit I made this argument in the moments after the Lions drafted Ebron. But all it took was a look back on an article I wrote three months ago to remind myself that Pettigrew isn't done as a Lion:
Brandon Pettigrew is set to become a free agent, but he could fit [Benjamin] Watson's role pretty well. Pettigrew is more well-rounded than Fauria as a blocker and receiver and could possibly benefit from a slightly diminished role as a receiver.
Benjamin Watson was the Saints' second tight end on the roster, and his role was not small with New Orleans. While his stat sheet may look unimpressive (19 receptions, 221 yards, 2 TDs), he was actually very important to the Saints, playing 44% of their snaps in 2013.
The biggest criticism you can make of the Pettigrew re-signing is that they overpaid him. He is making approximately $1 million more per year than Watson. But there was no guarantee that the Lions would have grabbed Ebron. They had to be prepared to play Pettigrew as a potential No. 1 tight end and bump his pay to convince him.
It's also important to note that while Pettigrew is on a four-year deal, his contract is very easy to get out of after two years. If the Lions were to cut him in 2016, it would save them $8 million dollars and only cost them $2 million in dead money.
3. What about defense?
Going along with the "bigger needs" argument is the misconception that the Lions are fine on offense while in desperate need on defense. Never mind that there are still six rounds in the draft left to address the other side of the ball, the notion that the Lions offense is "fine" is a bit puzzling. Yes, the Lions racked up a ton of yards last year, but their scoring was absolutely terrible considering those yards.
As noted by Reno09 in the comments section, the Lions offense was actually less efficient than the defense last year, according to the advanced statistics of Football Outsiders. Sure, the defense needs fixing too, but the offense was not where it needed to be.
Also, as I noted earlier in the week, the Lions are actually spending a considerable amount more on defense in 2014. The illusion that the Lions overspend on offensive toys is just that: an illusion (Michael).
4. Ebron's drops are a huge concern
If this is your only concern about the Ebron pick, I'm right there with you. I'm not going to try and sugarcoat or gloss over Ebron's 11.4% drop rate in 2013. It's not good. It's not as bad as some of you think, but it's not good. You'd like to think that the number will go down with a better quarterback, but no one can know that for sure.
The truth is tight ends typically drop a lot of passes because they are usually put in the most difficult spots to make catches. Balls are fit into tight windows, tight ends are usually draped by at least one defender and tight ends don't typically have a lot of space to deal with.
All that being said, drops are still definitely a concern. You don't have to look far into the tape to see some bad-looking drops. But even with those drops, Ebron managed to set the ACC record for receiving yards for a tight end in a single season.
Overall, while his drops are definitely a concern, Ebron will undeniably be an instant upgrade at the tight end position. His role in Detroit is clearly defined, and his fit is easy to see. That's why I have to agree with Michael Schottey of Bleacher Report (who is -- in full disclosure -- also a Lions fan) when he wrote the following:
He can coexist with Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria, as they all play vastly different roles. In the red zone, all three will see the field (along with Johnson) and drive defenses crazy.
I think Ebron will be a fine fit in Detroit, and was a decent pick at 10 overall.