The staff members at Footballguys are full of opinions. In a Faceoff, we allow two members to voice their opinions on a specific player. One picked the high side, and the other took the low side.
High Side by Andy Hicks
Eric Ebron is a tight end that should be targeted by fantasy players this season. He will be in his third year, the Detroit Lions have lost their number one target for the last decade to retirement in Calvin Johnson and Ebron will be undervalued in most drafts. The Lions don't really have a number one receiver on the roster now and the third year is often when tight ends make their fantasy arrival. Ebron has the pedigree, as he was a Top 10 draft pick in the 2014 draft. He also has the size, speed, skills and opportunity to become one of the best in the league.
Once the elite players are gone at tight end, many will be scrambling to find a player who can deliver starter stats, but not come at a starter price. This year after the first five or six are gone at the position we have about 15 guys that are contending for starting fantasy honors. Do we take guys that are clearly on the decline like Jason Witten or Antonio Gates? Do we take players who are on new teams and face uncertain roles like Martellus Bennett or Ladarius Green? Or do we look at young guys who were highly coveted in the NFL Draft, have been learning and are ready to be the best they can be?
Following the retirement of Calvin Johnson, the Detroit Lions are desperate for a playmaker on the offense. Golden Tate is a nice No. 2 receiver, while Marvin Jones Jr who arrives from Cincinnati is another guy who will work best as a complementary receiver. The newly signed veteran Anquan Boldin was a great player, but will be 36 early into the season and in the opinion of his previous team, the wide receiver starved San Francisco 49ers, has nothing left to offer. By default we look to the tight end position and find Eric Ebron.
Eric Ebron is the epitome of what the modern tight end should be. Fast, big, skilful and the ability to move the chains. The Lions gave up on Brandon Pettigrew as a receiver after the 2013 season and it is no surprise to see that as a first round tight end, Pettigrew had his best season in his third year. Some of the games greats such as Tony Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe made their arrival to the big time known in year 3 after doubts about their talent began to surface. Right now there are opinion writers offering that an undrafted rookie such as Cole Wick is threatening the playing time of Ebron. As we all should know stories at this time of the year can be all over the place about players and the motives behind it can be spurious. The Lions invested a first round pick in Ebron and will give him every chance to succeed this year or never. Fantasy owners should take him now while has value and opportunity.
Low Side by Devin Knotts
Eric Ebron is a highly talented tight end and there should be plenty of opportunity with Calvin Johnson retiring this season. However, along with the potential increase in targets comes an increased focus on the defense and a downgrade to the offense without having one of the best wide receivers in football. With these risks, Ebron is currently being overvalued and should be treated as a backup tight end on your roster. One of the biggest drawbacks for Eric Ebron is that he was third in drop percentage amongst tight ends with five or more targets per game. With a drop percentage of 7.1%, he will need to decrease this percentage in order to make a leap statistically in 2016.
Ebron ranked 27th in red zone targets last season amongst tight ends, and while we would expect this to go up with Calvin Johnson retiring, it is still a concern that Ebron was fourth on the team behind Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, and Theo Riddick, and he only had one more red zone target than Lance Moore. This is an issue as with only eight targets red zone targets it shows a lack of faith and opens up a potential opportunity for another tight end to come into the red zone to steal some of those targets. Ebron has never scored more than five touchdowns in any season in either college or the NFL. This was a player who was an All-American in college and had 973 yards in 13 games and only had three touchdowns. This is a red flag that even dating back to college where Ebron would be bigger and stronger than most players he still only had three touchdowns.
Ebron has tremendous talent between the twenties, but the real value of tight ends comes in the red zone so unless Ebron can double the yardage he had last season and get close to 1,000, he is going to have a difficult time becoming a number one tight end in 2016. Cole Wick is getting a lot of hype this offseason and may pose a risk to Ebron's workload. At the end of the day, Ebron is a mid-TE 2 based on his athleticism and potential upside, but he poses a significant risk to be drafted as a number one tight end. He will have a game or two where he will show signs of breaking out as he will catch a long touchdown, but he is not going to be consistent enough week in and week out to be trusted.