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2014 NFL Draft: Eric Ebron a potential top TE prospect

What makes UNC TE Eric Ebron a potential top TE prospect?

Liz Condo-USA TODAY Sports

University of North Carolina TE Ebron is without a doubt one of the most physically gifted draft eligible prospects in all of CFB. Ebron is listed at 6'4, 245 lbs, and does not even look like he's filled out his frame completely, yet he has the movement skills that can be mistaken for a WR at times. Quite simply from a physical standpoint, he is a freak.

Some of the biggest things I look for when watching TE's are 1) Can they make contested catches in traffic? 2) Can they create YAC? 3) What levels of the field can they attack? Intermediate? Vertical?

Making catches in traffic was something Ebron really struggled with in 2012 and it was really the biggest flaw in his game. This was worrisome because frankly, it is hard to succeed as a TE at the next level if you can not consistently win when contested at the catch point. While Ebron has still struggled in traffic from time to time in ‘13, he has showed signs of steady improvement compared to 2012. Use this GIF as an example.

The GIF shows an incredible effort by Ebron, but I'm not sure it does it full justice, so I included the picture below as well.

This is a catch I'm not sure Ebron makes in 2012. He stays focused throughout the catch, despite having a defender draped over him, uses his frame to box out the DB and absorb contact, and uses his strong hands and focus to score. Adding this crucial element to his game makes him even more of a threat, especially in the RZ. This is the type of development you want to see in a prospect.

While Ebron is not fully developed in his ability to thrive in traffic, I believe his improvement is on track and is a non issue.

As for YAC (Yards After Catch) ability, I have 0 questions for Ebron. He transitions smoothly from receiver to runner, and he is a nightmare once he picks up steam due to his athleticism and strength. This GIF shows just how dangerous Ebron can be with the ball in his hands.

He is able to explode out of his break once he catches the ball, uses his superior strength and size to break the initial tackles, and outruns the rest of Miami's Defense the rest of the way for the TD. This was a special play, because it shows just how big of a mismatch Ebron is. He is too fast for defenses, primarily most LB's, to contain but his overwhelming size/strength makes him a nightmare if you attempt to cover him with a Slot CB or a Safety.

To get a better understanding of the YAC potential Ebron has, look at this GIF to see how smoothly he moves his massive frame.

Not many teams use their TE's on sweeps like that. But then again, there are not many TE's who can move like Ebron can. He builds up speed with each step, making him a nightmare in space.

As for the versatility Ebron has and how you can use him to attack defenses, I once again have no questions with Ebron's ability. Some TE's are just vertically explosive athletes and can only attack the seams of defenses. Some TE's have lateral explosion and can stretch defenses horizontally. Ebron has the ability to do both.

In this GIF Ebron is able to explode out of his stance at the LOS, gaining separation vertically. He also shows off his soft hands and ability to snag passes that are outside his frame, making him all the more valuable.

In this next GIF, Ebron shows he can do more than just stretch the seam of defenses, as he executes a crossing route through the middle of the field. He is a very fluid mover who explodes out of every break cleanly.

Ebron isn't just an athlete though, as he does several of the smaller things really, really well. He has shown the ability to run a wide variety of routes and he is a zone coverage killer as he shows the awareness to quickly navigate himself through coverage and find the soft spots in zones. Against man coverage, Ebron shows very polished route running as he is able to execute head fakes, double moves, stop/go moves, and more importantly, he has shown he is able to use his frame and superior strength to get open and manufacture his own space, such as in this GIF

One thing that also consistently flashes while watching Ebron, is his amazing flexibility combined with very soft hands. Ebron knows how to position his body in multiple ways to adjust to the ball, and his catch radius is huge. Ebron also is able to look the ball cleanly into his hands, no matter what awkward position he may be forced into, such as this GIF and picture below.

While Ebron has proven himself to me as a receiving threat, he is not as capable while blocking, though I think it's much more of a technique issue than it is him being physically incapable. Ebron gives great effort and he has the strength/size to dominate defenders whether he is blocking downfield in space, or if he is being used inline. Here is an example of Ebron being able to get into a defenders frame and drive him off the ball. He plays with too wide of a base and is too often caught unbalanced, but the tenacity and potential to be a great blocker is there, he just needs to be coached up in the are, much like Tyler Eifert last year.

Lastly I want to show what is probably my favorite Eric Ebron play of 2013, mainly because it shows almost everything that makes him a good TE all in one play. This GIF is the play, vs Georgia Tech.

The GIF shows a few incredible things about Ebron. You can see from the start how well he moves his huge frame and how smooth he is when separating over the top of the defense. But what is hard to see in the GIF is the little things Ebron does that makes him what he is. To better illustrate what I mean, use this picture below.

In frame 1 you can see Ebron attempting to find the soft spot in the coverage, but the safety reads the QB and comes downhill to cover Ebron, who he thinks is running his route towards the middle of the field. In frame 2 Ebron adjusts his route due to the Safety and shows his flexibility and ability to use his frame to manufacture space, and quickly flips his hips to get vertical to gain separation. Ebron is already a mismatch and him being a polished route runner makes him all the more dangerous. In frame 3 the ball is finally thrown to an open Ebron. The ball comes in high, but Ebron is able to adjust quickly and use his strong hands/focus to corral the ball with one hand. In frame 4 Ebron comes down smoothly with the ball, showing the great balance that consistently shows up throughout his tape.

Overall when looking at the big picture, it's near impossible not to be impressed with Eric Ebron. His blend of size, strength, and athleticism are rare. I am not exaggerating when I say he is the biggest mismatch on the field every time he steps on it. Combine that with his YAC ability and improving skills in traffic and you have a very well rounded TE. Quite possibly the biggest selling point on Ebron though may be his versatility, which is key in transitioning to the NFL. Ebron can be used in the short yardage game, across the middle, and can attack the seams of a defense vertically. He can be lined up in the slot, out wide, and inline. Quite frankly, there is not many things Eric Ebron can not do, and for these reasons I believe he has the potential to claim the spot of top TE whenever he declares for the draft.

Credit to the great people at who made this article, and almost all of my work, possible.

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