Sep 7, 2013; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron (85) dives into the endzone over Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders corner back Jared Singletary (24) on a 2-point conversion attempt at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Liz Condo-USA TODAY Sports
It’s one thing to discuss what the Detroit Lions should or could do in the 2014 NFL Draft but it is another thing to have to actually make the decision. I got the chance to be the decision-maker for the Lions in a blogger mock draft for zoneblitz.com and when my turn came up, the following players were off the board:
1. Houston Texans – Jadaveon Clowney
2. St. Louis Rams – Khalil Mack
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Sammy Watkins
4. Cleveland Browns – Derek Carr
5. Oakland Raiders – Blake Bortles
6. Atlanta Falcons – Greg Robinson
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Teddy Bridgewater
8. Minnesota Vikings – Johnny Manziel
9. Buffalo Bills – Jake Matthews
With the tenth pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions select…Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t been totally in love with the idea of the Lions taking Ebron with the tenth pick through most of the draft process. But when it came time to make the pick, I felt like he was the best option given what happened in the first nine picks.
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The options I seriously considered were Ebron, Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M) and Aaron Donald (DT, Pitt). While I am a firm advocate of the Lions using a high pick on a wide receiver, Ebron got the nod over Evans as the offensive option because of the opportunity cost. The dropoff betwen Ebron and tight ends that will be available in, say, the third round is greater than what the Lions would face in considering wide receiver options. Whether it be someone like Davante Adams or Donte Moncrief, the Lions will have solid options for a wide receiver to grow opposite Calvin Johnson.
Tight ends like Ebron are the new wave of the NFL and he gives Joe Lombardi something closer to Jimmy Graham to work with than what is currently on the Lions roster. He won’t be listed on the roster as a wide receiver, but he definitely helps fill the need at that position. His drop rate is higher than ideal – likely a bigger issue with a fanbase weary of watching Brandon Pettigrew – but he is much more dynamic with the ball in his hands than Pettigrew or any other tight end currently on the roster.
The next issue to decide: offense or defense?
Aaron Donald has a firm grasp on the title of best defensive tackle in the 2014 draft class and the Lions haven’t been shy about adding defensive line help in previous drafts. Donald would represent a talent upgrade at defensive tackle but doesn’t fill an immediate need. However, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley are all set to become unrestricted free agents after the 2014 season. Even working under the expectation that Suh and the Lions will reach an agreement on an extension, Donald likely would have no problem grabbing a starting job starting in 2015.
I think Donald is a great option but, for me, it came down to Ebron having the ability to have more of an instant impact based on the team’s current roster, without sacrificing future potential as a result. With Suh, Fairley and Mosley all under contract for at least this season, the Lions can afford to use a later pick on a developmental defensive tackle with an eye towards 2015.