LIONS INSIDER

Eric Ebron pick popular with Brian Baldinger

Posted May 9, 2014

Opinions may vary, but NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger has tight end Eric Ebron as his favorite pick of the first round.

Opinions are all over the board when it comes to the Detroit Lions’ selection of tight end Eric Ebron 10th overall.

Eric EbronTE Eric Ebron (Photo: AP Images)
Some fans and analysts would have liked to see the Lions address their needs on defense with the pick.

Others think Ebron is exactly the weapon the Lions needed to stretch the field vertically down the middle and take some pressure off Calvin Johnson.

Count former NFL players and current NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger among the latter group.

In fact, Baldinger says Ebron to the Lions was his favorite pick of the first round.

“I think Ebron was one of the 10 best players,” Baldinger told detroitlions.com. “If you look at what he’s capable of doing and the way he was used at North Carolina, he is a real weapon.”

Ebron established school records at North Carolina with 112 catches and 1,805 yards. That’s an average of more than 16 yards per reception, which is an important statistic for the Lions, who plan to use Ebron as a vertical weapon.

“You can line him up all over the field,” Baldinger said. “At receiver, at slot and I think you can put him in motion. There are just a lot of things you can do. Paired with (Brandon) Pettigrew in a two tight end set makes sense. Flexed out makes sense. This guy catches the ball in traffic really well.

“If you add up Golden Tate and Calvin (Johnson) and Reggie (Bush), along with an offensive line I thought was fixed last year, I think this offense now has all the components to be really dynamic.”

The Lions plan to use Ebron much like the Saints used Jimmy Graham in New Orleans. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi was an offensive coach in New Orleans the last seven years and has brought a lot of elements from that offense to Detroit.

“Jimmy Graham, to me, is the worst blocking tight end in football,” Baldinger said. “So much so that (Saints head coach) Sean Payton takes him off the field when they want to run the football. They never put him at the point of attack. It’s actually embarrassing for as big as he is.

“I think Eric Ebron is going to be a middle-of-the-road blocking tight end. Most guys that are catching 80 to 100 balls don’t want to block, but I think this kid knows how to get into a three-point stance and stalemate a guy. He’s not as one-dimensional as Jimmy."

Ebron doesn’t have the length and vertical Graham has, so people can’t expect him to have the same impact in the red zone. Baldinger says the jury is still out on whether Ebron can be as effective as Graham in the middle of the field, but he thinks he can.

“I think he runs better than Jimmy Graham,” he said. “He’s just not as big as Jimmy Graham.”

Comparing Ebron, a player who’s never stepped on a NFL field, to a two-time All-Pro isn’t exactly fair, but the Lions selected him at No. 10 to be an immediate impact player and they think they got a good one.

We'll see in August when the pads come on.