It seems like many of us are getting on the bandwagon to draft a Tight End in the 1st round – which would be the first TE selected in the first round by the Giants since Jeremy Shockey in 2002, and that of only 2 in the Big Blue history (Derek Brown, 1992 in the sorry Ray Handley days). And more specifically, Giants fans and a number of mock draft analysts are getting on the bandwagon for Eric Ebron, UNC.
Now I have listened carefully to Ebron a few times on the radio, before and after The NFL Scouting Combine, I have watched video, and I have also found myself in a healthy discussion on the topic of Ebron with good friend, and respected Giants historian, Paul Dottino. So I have to say sitting here today, I happen to like Ebron, but I am not all the way there YET that he is the guy to pick in the 1st. There are pros and cons on this pick.
Lets take a look first at other needs…
Now from my perspective, the Giants have set themselves up in this FA period very nicely to go for a solid Offensive Lineman in the 1st OR a Tight End OR a Wide Receiver, depending on who is on the board at 12. Who would have even considered picking anything other than an OL player a couple of weeks ago? But now that we have seen the aggressive moves made in the first week of FA, the Giants need to be looking carefully at those positions early, and later, at Center (with Kevin Boothe and David Baas gone and question marks in unproven Dallas Reynolds and JD Walton) and DE (now that Justin Tuck has gone to the Raiders).
On the right side of the line, we have aging all-Pro Guard, Chris Snee. It’s hard to tell how he will hold up, so the Giants have a need there. Justin Pugh is versatile and can move in from Tackle to Guard if necessary. Newly acquired, Geoff Schwartz will start at Left Guard. With Offensive Line as the most significant issue of 2013, the Giants could firm up what they themselves have said to be the foremost problem, by selecting a solid OL starter in round 1, specifically for the right.
And as fans, we should be very happy with this type of pick (however, not Taylor Lewan, because we do not need the off field issues on top of the work we already have ahead). We need to protect Eli! Expect Jake Matthews and Greg Robinson to be gone. Zack Martin, Notre Dame at Tackle, and David Yankey, Stanford at Guard are nice prospects – both smart, with size, and have leadership skills to boot. We don’t see Guards much in Round 1, so I am liking Zack Martin, who I also heard on the radio today: versatile – can play almost anywhere, team guy, leadership qualities, and a worker (sounds like Giant kind of a guy to me).
One last word on this: as you contemplate our likely pick, do not forget what John Mara said in his 2013 season review: “(the) number one personnel priority going into the offseason, is we need to improve the offensive line.”
Going back to Tight End. As I said, I have heard Eric Ebron in radio interviews 3 times in the last 5 weeks, and I watched him at The Combine before he pulled up on that hamstring (concern?). I like a lot about him, but after his interviews, I am always left thinking, what am I missing?
First the Pros:
I like his confidence – it’s not a boasting confidence, it’s more a hungry confidence. He knows he wants to do what it takes to be the best at his position. He has the ability to show humility. When asked on the radio yesterday, ‘Where have you grown the most in the last 3 years (he is a Junior)?’, he said, “I have learned to be a team player.” And I paraphrase now, ‘I came in playing for me in my Freshman year, and in this last year, I played for the team’s success.’ I like that. If that can continue to mature, that is very Giants-like.
New OC McAdoo is a former Tight End coach, and he will definitely want to pick who he puts into this spot – a spot at which the Giants currently have next to nada (only a bunch of question marks, some who have possibly been around too long).
He has a tremendous potential as an athlete (there is another Tight End on the Giants who has barely seen a snap, who came in with a ton of potential), and he is a very good receiving Tight End. He can catch on the run. He set the ACC single season record for receiving yards by TE with 973, passing Vernon Davis, who had the previous record with 871.
He is from Newark, NJ, and so ya gotta feel like hometown players like when they can be a competitor in front of their hometown peeps.
The biggest red flag that cannot be ignored is that Ebron is inconsistent at blocking – an area needed tremendously in the TE position by the Giants, especially if the OL cannot be perfectly shored up to block. When I listen to him being asked about his blocking, I do have a concern. He doesn’t seem to address that he is working on bettering himself in this key area. While he says it’s important and a no brainer for a Tight End (I think his words were, ‘it’s part of the job’), he makes light of it, and he doesn’t currently make me think he is putting in the extra effort to improve in an area where he has been lackluster. Not to assume, but based on their post-interview comments, I don’t think Rich Gannon and Bruce Murray quite bought it either.
According to Mike Mayock, in the area of blocking, Ebron “could stand to improve technique, physicality and finish. (He is) not equipped to lock horns with NFL defensive ends. Inconsistent adjusting to and fitting on moving targets.” The general consensus is that he DOES have the ability to get better here, but he is going to have to be coached, and take the coaching.
He is lacking in size and as the ideal Tight End.
Lets take a quick look at some of the CURRENT best Tight Ends in the NFL (inadvertent of recent injury or age):
Rob Gronkowski: 6’6”, 264
Jimmy Graham: 6’7”, 265
Jason Witten: 6’6”, 261
Ebron is 6’4”, and 250 – he believes his best playing weight is 252.
Now the reality is, what is viewed as ‘ideal’, is not always the best. Lets take a look at some of the best Tight Ends of all time – most of them, great at both blocking AND receiving:
Mark Bavaro (who we all know was a beast of a blocker): 6’4”, 245
Shannon Sharpe: 6’2”, 228
Todd Christiansen: 6’3”, 230
Ben Coates: 6’5”, 245
Tony Gonzalez: 6’5”, 247
So while by today’s standards, Ebron might not have the size of the ideal TE, that may not matter so much as him really focusing energy on becoming a better blocker, and a more physical force against today’s defensive ends. So if the Giants do choose to go that route in the first round, this is going to be the biggest consideration.
Now, as we sit here on March 20th, we have quite a bit of time before the NFL Draft in May, and so this is certainly not the last I’ll have to say on the topic. However, since I do tend to see a lot of new Ebron groupies out there, I figured I’d throw in my thoughts on the topic. Possible for Ebron to shine? Absolutely. Might the Giants do better by making a different choice in Round 1? Absolutely possible.
There’s a lot to consider. But this is the fun time of the year when we all get to pretend to be Jerry, isn’t it? Love it!