Steelers 2014 NFL Draft Player Profiles – North Carolina TE Eric Ebron

Good friend Dave-Te’ Thomas of Scouting Services has finished his player profiles of several of the top 2014 NFL Draft prospects and over the course of the next few weeks I will be posting the ones that the Pittsburgh Steelers will more than likely have interest in. While North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron has not been in for a pre draft visit, the Steelers did show interest in him at his Pro Day, so today we post his player profile. Thomas has done these profiles for the NFL for several years and I know that many of you enjoy reading them.

ERIC EBRON
Tight End
University of North Carolina Tar Heels
#85
6:04.3-250
Greensboro, North Carolina
Ben L. Smith High School

OVERVIEW

Ebron is an athletic pass-catching tight end in the mold of San Francisco’s Vernon Davis, as he is a constant threat to make the big play for the Carolina offense. Expected to be one of the nation’s top tight ends following a breakout sophomore campaign that saw him establish school records for receptions (40) and receiving yards (625) by a tight end, the Mackey Award finalist went on to shatter those marks in 2013, ranking second among the major college tight ends with a team-high 62 catches for 973 yards.

The All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team selection is often lined wide, creating mismatches vs. smaller defensive backs who struggle to generate proper press coverage, as Ebron can easily escape contact and get behind his opponent to excel on getting to the long bombs. In 2013, he not only gained over 100 yards receiving in three contests, he continued to etch his name in the school record book, as his 199 yards gained vs. Miami are the most ever in a contest by a UNC tight end and placed seventh on the school game-record chart.

The Greensboro, North Carolina native recently announced that he would forgo his senior season at North Carolina and was entering his name into the 2014 NFL Draft pool. With that move anticipated by professional scouts early in the 2013 campaign, the Tar Heel has seen his draft stock rise to first round status. What impresses professional teams is that the junior displays very good overall muscle development in his legs, good bubble, defined shoulders and arms, good chest width, long arms and big hands.

Ebron can generate excellent explosion coming off the snap and his speed also allows the coaches to line him wide and capitalize on that quickness in long routes. His burst off the snap lets him consistently gain advantage. He has above average up field and lateral quickness to reach the second level and has more than enough strength to defeat the jam. When he explodes out of his stance, he immediately gains advantage to hook the nine-tech and moves his feet well to sustain when blocking.

The thing you see on film is his ability to get off the line cleanly and avoid under-coverage on the route stem. He is best when used as a seam threat, as he shows the acceleration and speed to challenge even cornerbacks on deep patterns. He also uses his hands very well to elude and break free from the pile when working through traffic.

Ebron displays very good quickness in and out of his breaks. He has superb body control to break down and make the quick cuts. In 2013, he greatly improved his ability to sink his hips and separate out of his cuts. He used to shuffle his feet and gear down in his breaks, but demonstrated better acceleration as a junior. His patterns are precise, especially vs. man coverage, and he works hard to gain leverage.

Ebron shows the ability to work back to the quarterback. He has a knack for finding and settling into the zone’s soft area and shows valid feet running underneath routes. He is not the tallest tight end you will find, but still presents a nice target on short routes, displaying a good understanding for leverage and how to sit in the zone.

The North Carolina product does a very good job of extending his arms to catch the ball with his hands in front of his frame. He also plays with good aggression and does not hesitate to combat for the jump balls. His large, soft hands let him extend, pluck, snatch and secure the ball with ease. He also has the explosion and second gear to find the open seam on deep routes.

Ebron possesses good ability to track the ball in flight and has that sudden burst to break tackles after initial contact. He demonstrates the body control and ball skills to adjust down field and runs hard, knowing where to find the end zone. With more emphasis being made in the pros to involve the tight end in the passing attack, it is clear that Ebron has very good value.

Many feel that the Tar Heel junior will be one of the first tight ends drafted in 2014, due to his combination of quickness, leaping ability, speed and strength. Scouts realize that he lacks ideal height and could use more bulk, but not at the risk of losing some of his incredible speed.

Ebron has always been an elite performer, earning Super Prep All-American honors during his final season at Smith High School. He was rated the eighth-best tight end in the nation by ESPNU and ranked 20th among prep tight ends by Scout.com. Rivals.com considered him to be the 21st-best tight end in the country and the 17th-best overall prospect in the state of North Carolina.

Ebron was a member of the Associated Press North Carolina All-State team as a senior, earning a roster spot on North Carolina’s Shrine Bowl team, where he performed as a wide receiver. His final season at Smith High saw him make 28 catches for 682 yards and ten touchdowns on offense after he had hauled in 24 passes for 408 yards and four scores as a junior. He also played defensive end, posting 68 tackles and 13.5 sacks in 2010.

The prize of North Carolina’s 2011 recruiting class, Ebron was brought along slowly as a true freshman. He did not start any of the ten games he appeared in, but did manage to finish sixth on the team with ten receptions for 207 yards and a touchdown, adding a solo tackle as a member of the kickoff coverage squad.

Ebron took over tight end duties in 2011, starting all eleven games he appeared in. He set school season-records for tight ends, as he generated 625 yards on forty receptions that included four touchdowns. At that time, his 625 receiving yards ranked as the fourth-best season performance by an Atlantic Coast Conference tight end. He recorded thirty first downs, converting eight third-down tosses and 24 of his catches gained at least ten yards, including eleven for twenty yards or longer.

As a junior, Ebron continued his assault on both the school and conference record books. He led the Tar Heels with 62 receptions for 973 yards (15.69 ypc), but found the end zone with just three of those grabs. Those figures topped his own tight end annual records at UNC, along with surpassing the ACC season-record (for tight ends) of 871 yards, set by Vernon Davis at Maryland in 2005. The only tight end to ever catch more passes in a season in league annals was Virginia’s Heath Miller, who pulled down 70 balls in 2003.

Prior to the regular season finale vs. Duke, Ebron announced he would forego his final year of eligibility and enter the 2014 NFL Draft after UNC’s bowl game. “I’ve had a great time in Chapel Hill and I appreciate everything Coach Fedora and the coaching staff has done for me,” said Ebron prior to the Duke game. “Coming to Carolina allowed me to develop as both a person and a football player. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I look forward to finishing the season with my teammates and then moving on to the next level.”

CAREER NOTES

The three-year performer for North Carolina has started 21-of-34 games he suited up for, establishing school career-records for tight ends with 112 receptions for 1,805 yards (16.12 ypc), adding eight touchdowns … His 112 catches topped the previous UNC all-time tight end record of 94 catches by Zack Pianalto (2007-10) … The only Atlantic Coast Conference tight end to record more receptions in a career is Heath Miller of Virginia (144; 2002-04) … His 1,805 receiving yards topped Miller’s league tight end record of 1,703 yards, as Ebron became the ninth player in school annals to gain over 1,800 yards for the Tar Heels … In 2011, Ebron rewrote the school season-record books for tight ends, as he caught forty passes for 625 yards, surpassing the previous marks of 448 yards by Mike Chatham in 1979 and 36 receptions by Ryan Taylor in 2010 … The only ACC tight ends to gain more receiving yards in a season were Vernon Davis of Maryland (871 in 2005), Heath Miller (835 in 2003) and Bruce McGonnigal of Virginia (634 in 1989) after the 2012 schedule, but the following year, Ebron again established new UNC tight end annual marks, as he pulled in 62 passes for 973 yards, the most yardage by an ACC tight end in a season. The only league tight end to make more catches in a campaign was Heath Miller, who came up with 70 catches in 2003 … His nine receptions vs. North Carolina State in 2013 rank second on the school game-record list for tight ends, topped by Mike Chatham, who made ten grabs vs. Wake Forest in 1979 … His 199 receiving yards vs. Miami in 2013 set the UNC tight end game record and placed seventh on the school’s overall record chart behind Randy Marriott (247 vs. Georgia Tech, 1987), Dwight Jones (233 vs. Florida State, 2010), Jheranie Boyd (221 vs. Louisiana State, 2010), Hakeem Nicks (217 vs. West Virginia, 2008), Octavus Barnes (211 vs. Ohio University, 1995) and Dwight Jones (198 vs. Virginia, 2010) … In his last two seasons, Ebron has caught 102-of-167 passes targeted to him (61.08%), as the opposition deflected 22 of those tosses (13.17%). The tight end produced 71 first downs among his grabs, converting 17-of-40 third-down catches, as sixty-six of his receptions gained at least ten yards, including twenty-four for twenty yards or longer.

2013 SEASON

Ebron earned All-American first-team honors by ESPN.com, adding second-team accolades from the Associated Press, USA Today, Walter Camp, Athlon, Sports Illustrated and CBSSports.com, along with receiving third-team recognition from The NFL Draft Report … The first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference choice was named a finalist for the coveted John Mackey Award, given annually to the nation’s top tight end … The junior appeared in all thirteen games, starting ten contests, as he came off the bench vs. Virginia Tech, Old Dominion and Cincinnati (Belk Bowl) … Shattered his own school season-records for tight ends, as he pulled in a team-high 62 passes (second in the nation among tight ends) for 973 yards (also second among FBS tight ends), averaging 15.69 yards per grab, as he found the end zone three times … Also assisted on a pair of tackles … His 973 yards receiving also set an ACC season-record for tight ends … Had 96 passes targeted to him (caught 64.58%), as he totaled 41 first-down grabs, converting nine third-down tosses and pulling in six crucial throws inside the red zone … Forty of his grabs gained at least ten yards, including thirteen for twenty yards or longer … In addition to his three touchdown catches, he came up with clutch receptions that set up twelve other touchdown drives, along with making catches that resulted in one field goal … Graded 81.25% for blocking consistency, making 38 knockdown/key blocks and three touchdown-resulting blocks.
Ebron’s junior season began quietly, as he caught three passes for 32 yards and recovered a fumble vs. South Carolina … The Tar Heels would begin a four-game losing streak vs. Georgia Tech, but Ebron shined in this defeat, as he generated 108 yards with a touchdown on six catches … In the Virginia clash, Ebron followed with six receptions for 70 yards … A pass interference penalty was Ebron’s only blemish vs. Miami, as he set a school game-record for tight ends with 199 yards gained via eight receptions that included a then career-long 71-yarder. He also assisted in taking down Dallas Crawford on a first quarter punt return that netted the Hurricane no yards. His 199 yards are a single-game UNC record for receiving yards by a tight end. The previous mark was 144, set by Tony Blanchard against Wake Forest in 1968. His 199 yards are the sixth-most receiving yards by any Tar Heel in a game … In the North Carolina State clash, Ebron lost nine yards when he recovered his own fumble after his first catch for the day, finishing with 70 yards on nine receptions to help the Tar Heels to a 27-19 decision … After announcing that he would be leaving school to play in the NFL next year, Ebron closed out the regular season vs. Duke by pulling down five passes for 121 yards that included his career-long reception of 79 yards … Closed out his career with five first downs among his seven receptions for 73 yards vs. Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl.

2012 SEASON

Ebron took over tight end duties for the Tar Heels, starting all eleven games he appeared in … The consensus All-Atlantic Coast Conference second-team selection was forced to sit out the Virginia clash late in the schedule due to flu-like illness … Still managed to finish fourth on the team and set school season-records for tight ends, as he snared 40-of-72 passes targeted to him (55.56%) for 625 yards (15.63 ypc) and four touchdowns … Posted thirty first downs, as he converted eight third-down tosses and delivered on all four pass attempts to him on goal-line plays … Gained at least ten yards on 26 of his snatches, including eleven that went for twenty yards or longer … Also assisted on the kickoff and punt coverage units, producing four tackles … Snared four passes for 55 yards and a 6-yard score, adding a solo tackle after a UNC interception vs. Wake Forest … Added five grabs for 38 yards vs. Louisville and piled up 87 yards via seven catches, six good for first downs, as six also gained at least ten yards vs. Miami … Pulled in five balls for 68 yards, but twice turned the ball over on fumbles vs. Duke … Gained 79 yards on four catches and when injuries depleted the defensive line, he played as a defensive end late in the North Carolina State contest … Closed out the season with three receptions for 57 yards and a score vs. Maryland.

2011 SEASON

Ebron appeared in ten games as a true freshman, but did not travel with the team to the Independence Bowl due to academic reasons … Ranked fifth on the squad with ten catches for 207 yards (20.7 ypc) and one touchdown … also recorded one solo tackle … Ebron’s first career reception was good for 27 yards, coming in UNC’s second game, vs. Rutgers … Scored his first career touchdown at Georgia Tech, a 20-yard catch where he was hit at the goal line and held his ground. He also came up with a 24-yard reception late in the contest vs. the Yellow Jackets … Caught three passes for 32 yards at Clemson … Had a 32-yard snatch vs. Wake Forest and turned a short toss into a 47-yard gain vs. Duke.

INJURY REPORT

2012 Season … Sat out the Virginia contest (11/15) with flu-like symptoms.

AGILITY TESTS

4.60 in the 40-yard dash … 1.63 10-yard dash … 2.71 20-yard dash … 4.35 20-yard shuttle …
11.76 60-yard shuttle … 7.09 three-cone drill … 32-inch vertical jump … 10’-0” broad jump … Bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times … 33 ¼-inch arm length … 10-inch hands … 80 3/8-inch wingspan.

HIGH SCHOOL

Ebron attended Smith (Greensboro, N.C.) High School, playing football for head coach Rodney Brewington … Rated the eighth-best tight end in the nation by ESPNU and ranked 20th among prep tight ends by Scout.com … Rivals.com considered him to be the 21st-best tight end in the country and the 17th-best overall prospect in the state of North Carolina …
The Super Prep All-American was a member of the Associated Press North Carolina All-State team as a senior, earning a roster spot on North Carolina’s Shrine Bowl team, where he performed as a wide receiver … His final season at Smith High saw him make 28 catches for 682 yards and ten touchdowns on offense after he had hauled in 24 passes for 408 yards and four scores as a junior … Also played defensive end, posting 68 tackles and 13.5 sacks in 2010.

PERSONAL

Communication Studies major … Son of Gina Jackson and Eric Ebron Sr … Born 4/10/93 … Resides in Greensboro, North Carolina.

PLAYER STATISTICS

RECEIVING STATISTICS
STATSGPGSNOYARDSAVGTDLONGR/PGGM/AVG
20111001020720.7147120.7
201211114062515.634493.6456.82
201313106297315.693794.7774.85
TOTAL3421112180516.128793.2953.09

  • PA2AK

    Anyone have a clue or any statistical basis on how well TD production translates to the next level?

  • srdan

    Even with all his flaws, Ebron maybe my favorite player that has been linked to our first round pick.

    I am new school in my thoughts that we don’t need a tight end to block, and definetly not in the near future. We have Heath and Spaeth to do that. What we so desperately need is a red zone threat. Ebron may be the top redzone threat in the draft, including watkins, evans and KB.

    Also we have to face it, BB is no spring chicken. People like Ebron give a developing QB a bigger margin for error. Veteran QBs make their receivers better, veteran receivers make young QBs better. By the time Ebron will be a veteran receiver (TE) the steelers will be looking to develop the next franchise QB.

    For the next 3-4 years while Ebron is developing as a player, we can expect 6-10 TDs, 5-7 of them in the red zone. A player like this owuld have given us a chance to win a few more games last year. We often stalled in the red zone.

  • Lewis

    We all know what an elite pass catching TE can do for an offense. Gronk, Graham, Davis, Thomas. If Ebron can add that extra dimension to the Steelers O, then I’m all for it.

  • Jeff

    Assuming a few other guys are off the board, I still like the selection of Kelvin Benjamin better than Ebron.

    19 TDs on 84 receptions is just remarkable.

  • whisn

    if still available, we’re drafting this guy.

  • PA2AK

    I was wonder how legit that expectation is. (i’m with your line of thinking, btw). He has 8 total tds in 3 years….that hits me as very underwhelming. Especially considering he will be facing much better talent at the next level.

  • srdan

    yeah, I can’t explain that one. The only thing I could say is that going from 12 to 16 games wll have a positive impact on that number. Did NC feature other big targets in the RZ? Ebron would get a lot of chances in the RZ in our offense. But 8 TDs for a playmaking TE is not a lot.

  • PA2AK

    Yeah, obviously a lot of factors to consider. I wonder if there are any statistics out there compiled to demonstrate the translation from college TD production to the NFL.

  • Jeff

    Agreed that 8 is a little underwhelming… 7 of those TDs came in the redzone though so that’s a plus

  • http://www.nyob.com/ Dr. Doom

    Is he an elite prospect?

  • Jason Vancil

    I was surprised to hear Dave Te’s harsh comments on Ebron. Of course he is privy to info we don’t have. He can’t not like the tape on Ebron. And really I don’t see the difference between a big WR and a Small TE. I mean Ebron will probably only lineup inline 20-40% off the time I would think.

  • SFIC

    He is an elite athlete… But elite prospect? The ceiling is there, but he’ll need to develop his route running and become a vacuum when covered to reach elite status. That is no guarantee IMO.

  • Lewis

    definitely no guarantees when it comes to the draft. We hear the same talk for every position, for every draft. This is the next this guy. Or he reminds me of this all pro…But TE is a need, and if he is bpa when the Steelers are up, then why not take a chance on the hype. Like I said, this type of TE can be a real game changer.

  • RyanW

    8 CAREER touchdowns and everyone thinks hed be the next big red zone threat? Maybe he will but that doesnt sell me on him at all.

  • steelster

    I believe his drop rate percentage is 11 percent. Benjamin 9 percent.

  • Caleb

    I like the idea of having a veteran in place for the next QB.

  • JAMESH

    Imagine being a DC facing Heath at TE, Brown and Wheaton as wideouts, Ebron in the slot, and Bell sneaking out of the backfield…….. with Ben in command. That is one formidable attack.

  • shawn

    i have been a big proponent of taking an athletic TE early and have been high on Ebron as well, but u are right those low TD numbers are definitely a red flag. Not sure of the complete circumstances, but just off of that i prob would have to think that KB would be a better pick if we are solely looking at RZ production !

  • shawn

    Yup … as long as our OL stands up !

  • JAMESH

    See….. now you’re just talking crazy.

  • Tom Savastano

    I agree and hope Benjamin is our pick..