The Detroit Lions gave up on two first round picks in Laken Tomlinson and Eric Ebron. Will these decisions haunt the franchise or be a step towards winning?
In order to win a Super Bowl, every decision must be sound. Two fairly recent decisions by the Detroit Lions deserve further scrutiny.
Guard Laken Tomlinson was a first round pick in 2015 (28th overall), while tight end Eric Ebron was a first round pick in 2014 (10th overall). Neither player was chosen by general manager Bob Quinn, who took over in 2016. Both, however, were hoisted off this team by Quinn before they had even finished their rookie deals.
Quinn traded Tomlinson just before the 2017 season. In a deal with the San Francisco 49ers, the Detroit Lions received a fifth round pick in 2019. Recently, Tomlinson was given a three-year extension by San Francisco. It is worth up to $18 million with incentives.
In his two years with Detroit, Tomlinson was available for all 32 games, and he started 24 of them. But he never stood out as a top notch pass or run blocker. On his best days, he was just kind of average.
In his one year in San Francisco, Tomlinson did start in 15 games, missing just one due to injury. According to an article from nbcbayarea.com, Tomlinson closed out the season with some very strong play:
"“The analytic website Pro Football Focus graded Tomlinson’s play over the final two games of the regular season as being outstanding,” wrote Doug Williams for The Faithful. “Against the Rams in a season-closing 49ers victory, Tomlinson didn’t allow a single quarterback pressure and was named to PFF’s all-NFL team that week.”"
ONE MORE YEAR
Did the Detroit Lions make a mistake getting rid of this guy? His new contract is not a monster deal, but the 49ers clearly think he is their starter at guard.
If Tomlinson stayed in Detroit, he would still be on his rookie contract. Experience counts in the NFL, and Tomlinson now has 39 starts under his belt in three seasons.
One other thing to consider is the effect this move had on the 2018 NFL Draft. Instead of selecting center/guard Frank Ragnow in the first round, maybe the Lions could have helped out the defensive line. Or they could have taken a running back a round earlier.
At least the Tomlinson deal results in a fifth round pick, although that isn’t much. Sometimes mistakes in personnel can be the guys you let go outright. And the next guy is a perfect example.
When Detroit cut him earlier this year, Eric Ebron had one more year left on his deal. Ebron has since signed with the Indianapolis Colts, where he hopes to become a major weapon this year.
Looking at the current Detroit roster, there is no one of Ebron’s talent. Tight end Michael Roberts is the closest thing to a top-end receiving threat on the roster. But with just four catches in his rookie year, Roberts has plenty to prove in year two.
What exacerbates the Ebron issue is the report earlier this month that Detroit had talks with the New England Patriots about tight end Rob Gronkowski (nicknamed “Gronk”). Even though these were just discussions, it points to the fact that the position does not have a game changing talent.
With Gronk, the game changing talent is at a completely different (essentially Hall of Fame) level. But the difference between Gronkowski and Ebron may be equal to the difference between Ebron and what is left on the current roster.
This is especially important considering how the 2018 offense looks on paper:
- The talent at wide receiver is impressive.
- There certainly is a level of optimism for the new talent at running back.
- The offensive line got another boost of talent this offseason.
- And, of course, the quarterback is something special.
Yet, there has been a clear downgrade at tight end.
Ebron made his mistakes. He had untimely drops and mental errors on enough occasions to become an annoyance for Lions fans. But could he have been another nice piece to this offensive talent pie? Could the current talent have helped improve his game?
REGRET OR THE RIGHT STEP?
It would be hard to quantify the percentage of decisions that work out in the NFL. Is 75% what the good teams score, while 40% is what the bad teams score? Not really sure, but no one “bats a thousand” in the NFL.
In the end, the teams with the most sound decisions are the ones that could hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year. At the very least, they win playoff games.
If Tomlinson and Ebron go on to play well in their new homes, their dismissals from the team will not look good for this franchise. Hopefully, what was best for these two was also best for Detroit.
But it is hard not to wonder if these moves set the Detroit Lions back, or are just another step towards a championship run. The latter sounds much better than the former. But the former certainly has a ring of familiarity.