TWENTYMAN: Lions host former North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron

Posted Apr 14, 2014

The Lions aren’t leaving any stone unturned when it comes to evaluating next month’s NFL Draft prospects.

The Detroit Lions re-signed tight end Brandon Pettigrew to a new four-year contract this offseason.

Eric EbronTE Eric Ebron (Photo: AP Images)

They’re also very high on the potential of Joseph Fauria, who stormed onto the scene with seven touchdowns as a rookie last season.

But even with Pettigrew and Fauria in tow, and still not knowing what they have in 2013 seventh-round pick Michael Williams, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, the Lions aren’t leaving any stone unturned when it comes to evaluating next month’s NFL Draft prospects.

The team hosted former North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, the consensus No.1 tight end available in the draft, for a pre-draft visit to Allen Park on Monday.

Ebron, 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, was a John Mackey Award semifinalist after setting an ACC and school single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 973 (passing Vernon Davis, who had 871). He also established school records for single-season receptions (62), career receptions (112) and career receiving yards (1,805) for a tight end.

He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine and possesses terrific run-after-catch potential in the NFL.

Simply put, he's a mismatch, and that’s what offensive coordinators search far and wide for.

“Teams always talk about how they can create this mismatch to win this situation,” Ebron told “That’s the NFL. You try to find mismatches everywhere. If they have to double team someone then there’s a mismatch somewhere.”

The tight end position has evolved over the years to become more of a play-making position in the NFL. Players like Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis have all made a career of taking advantage of those mismatches.

Ebron’s drawn comparisons to Davis, who plays more like a receiver than he does an in-line tight end.

Ebron said he played about 40-percent of the time off the line of scrimmage at North Carolina, 40-percent in-line and another 20-percent as a hybrid player, including being a running back.

New Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi would certainly know what to do with a tight end as athletic as Ebron, having seen first hand what Graham was able to do in the Saints offense the last four seasons.

Ebron said he could “thrive” in an offense like the one Lombardi is installing with the weapons at his disposal.

“It would be such a huge opportunity for me to occupy the middle of the field and hold an advantage point because you know teams will be trying to double team Calvin Johnson or trying to double team Golden Tate,” Ebron said.

“It would leave that mismatch just sitting there. With the quarterback you have, with the two running backs you have and the two wide receivers you have, coming in as a rookie you’re probably not going to get the respect that you deserve and that’s what I’m looking for. I want that. I can make my mark and then the competition can really come.”

The Lions hold the No. 10 overall pick in May's draft and have a number of different ways they can go. Tight end doesn't appear to be a huge position of need after the Pettigrew signing, but Lions general manager manager Martin Mayhew has always said talent trumps need.

The Lions seem to be doing their homework on every possible contingency.