Detroit Lions star tight end Eric Ebron recently said he is “overly excited” about his 2017 prospects, as his role within the team’s passing game is expected to put him in positions where he can succeed. Anyone looking for a late round fantasy football sleeper might want to consider Ebron, who certainly didn’t have a bad role during the 2016 season, but wasn’t properly used near the red-zone.
Despite missing three games due to injury, Ebron was still heavily involved in Detroit’s offense, securing a career high 61 receptions for 711 receiving yards. Ebron’s lack of use in scoring positions held him to just one receiving touchdown, however, causing a huge dip from the five scores the former Tar Heel racked up in 2015.
So, what can we expect to be different? The Lions do plan on incorporating talented running back Ameer Abdullah as they gun for a more balanced offense, but the absence of veteran slot man Anquan Boldin (led the Lions with 22 red-zone targets in 2016) could open the door for Ebron to see more scoring opportunities. Top receiver Marvin Jones is still a big red-zone threat for the team, but Ebron’s massive size and freakish athleticism make him an easy target close to the goal-line, as well as a mismatch for opposing linebackers and safeties.
The writing has been on the wall for a while now that Ebron has the talent and potential to be a fantasy football phenom, but we could just now be seeing the Lions actually try to maximize his abilities. Ebron’s upside is obvious, as he was fantasy football’s 15th best tight end in 2016, despite scoring just one time all year.
Inconsistency and health have also been lingering issues that have helped hold Ebron back, while poor run-blocking grades led to many assuming the Lions would possibly move on from him in 2017. Detroit did add two new tight ends, but based on Ebron’s own optimism and the praise of head coach Jim Caldwell, it’s looking like either Ebron could be showing improvement on the line as a blocker, and/or the new additions could “free” him to do what he does best.
The size and athleticism are there for the Lions to put to good use and we probably need to boost Ebron a bit in our 2017 tight end rankings. The upside is certainly there for top-10 potential and although it’s taken some time, we can’t deny the very real possibility this could finally be Ebron’s big breakout campaign. Adding to Ebron’s upside are the defensive struggles within his own division. The Green Bay Packers were among the worst defenses in the league a year ago (13th worst vs. TEs), while the Chicago Bears haven’t been a reliable unit, either.