Number Eight – 2014
Selection/Position: Eric Ebron / Tight End
Draft position/School: 10th overall / North Carolina
Tenure with Lions: 2014 – 2017
Lions statistics: 56 games played, 186 receptions, 2,070 receiving yards, 12 total touchdowns
Arguably one the most criticized professional athletes in Detroit in recent memory, Ebron is remembered not only for his wildly inconsistent four seasons in Detroit, but also for the players who were selected after him in the first round in 2014. Specifically, the following three picks still have Lions fans shaking their heads.
After the Lions took Ebron with the tenth overall pick, they watched the Tennessee Titans select offensive tackle Taylor Lewan at eleven. Lewan has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. went 12th to the New York Giants. Despite all of his antics on and off the field, Beckham remains a singular talent, capable of taking a game over on his own when he is right. Can you imagine a receiving corps in 2014 with Beckham, Calvin Johnson, and Golden Tate? Don’t do it to yourself.
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald went to the then St. Louis Rams with the next pick. All he has done in his five NFL seasons is collect 59.5 sacks, 97 tackles for loss, four first-team all-pro selections, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, a Super Bowl appearance, and the unofficial award for causing the most hours of lost sleep suffered by opposing offensive linemen. Woof.
Granted, at the time the Lions had a similarly dominant defensive tackle on the roster in Ndamukong Suh, so the need wasn’t exactly pressing. However, watching Suh and Donald lead the Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl appearance together last season must have been a bitter pill to swallow for Lions fans.
Overall, Ebron was an above average tight end for the Lions, averaging 607 receiving yards and 3.3 touchdowns receptions in his final three seasons with the team. However, the aforementioned stars’ impact for their teams and the frustrating dropped passes or missed route assignments are the images that will likely be etched in the psyche of Lions’ faithful when they think of Ebron.
Most maddening of all, however, could have been watching Ebron explode in his first season with the Indianapolis Colts after he was cut by the Lions last offseason. Ebron totaled 13 receiving touchdowns for the Colts in 2018, two more than he had in four years combined with the Lions. Don’t forget that in his absence, the Lions fielded one of the least effective tight end groups in the league last season.
All told, the Ebron era came and went, with the Lions left wondering what could have been had they gone in a different direction. That lands him near the bottom of this list.