Call Me Crazy But … Eric Ebron Won’t Be A Top Ten Tight End
Fantasy football is full of trash-talking, proving your better than your friends (at least at one thing, but we all know once you’re in a league everything else you do with your league mates becomes a competition), and bold predictions. Everyone thinks they have the hottest takes, wildest theories, or know something you don’t know as they try to look like the smartest guy in the room. Well, I am here to shut that shit down, no exceptions (shout out my man Negan)! This is a series I have titled “Call me crazy but …” in which I like to take the popular names, stats, or takes from the general consensus of the fantasy big-wigs and community and tear them apart like I play quarterback for the Steelers. Continuing the 2019 edition of the series we take a look at a guy who had a ton of potential wasted in Detroit but broke out in Indianapolis last season; Mr. Eric Ebron …
Call me crazy but … Eric Ebron won’t be a top 10 tight end in 2019.
We all knew guys like Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz would finish fighting for that top tight end position come the end of the season but Eric Ebron?? We all knew what his potential was when he was drafted by the Detroit Lions as the 10th overall pick in the first round in 2014, but Ebron, unfortunately for Lions fans and fantasy owners alike, never lived up to his hype in the Motor City. Then a change of scenery happened last offseason and Ebron found himself 300 miles south of a losing tradition in the silver and blue and now strapped up with a horseshoe on his helmet and a team that seemed to have it together for a big offensive year and years to come. Andrew Luck to a big liking to his new toy and Ebron set the tight end category on fire, seeming to find the end zone like clockwork week-in and week-out, and finishing at TE4 for the season with 222 points. Another offseason working with the offense should make Ebron an even bigger threat and an even better fantasy finisher in 2019, right? I don’t think so. I highly recommend not wasting a pick on Ebron this coming fantasy season; unless you want your heart broken again like when your high school sweetheart left you after prom to start her search for a real future.
Ebron was an absolute monster last year! He posted 222 points in 16 games, averaging just shy of 14PPG. 27 different tight ends have hit the 220 point mark, with ten guys doing it multiple times for a total of 55 different 220+ point tight end performances. Ebron’s 222.2 point ranked as the 7th fewest in the category and his 13.9PPG were the 6th fewest among all qualifying seasons. Given his age at just 25, Ebron should be able to hit the 220 point mark again, right? Well since 2000 we’ve seen 7 tight ends make this list multiple times; Tony Gonzalez (6), Antonio Gates (5), Jason Witten (4), Jimmy Graham (4), Rob Gronksowski (4), Travis Kelce (3), and Greg Olsen (2). Every single one of those tight ends has been, and some still are, the most dangerous weapon on their given squad. There are Super Bowl champions, future Hall of Famers, and the guys who literally changed the entire position on that list of seven and Ebron is neither a champ nor has a gold jacket future and he sure as hell hasn’t revolutionized the position. It was just the second time in his five year career that Ebron was able to average double-digit points per game; he averaged 11 per contest in 2016. Ebron’s 222 total points were through the roof for him and he never hit the 150 point threshold, let alone 200, and before 2018 he never finished as a TE1; his best finish was TE13 in both 2015 and 2017. If we take all five years of Ebron’s NFL career and average his points per year he’s posting 137 per season. That 137 points would have placed Ebron anywhere between 10th and 16th among tight ends over the last five seasons. Yes, Ebron had a monster year with his 222 points (37 more points than his first and second seasons combined), but his points came from one particular source that likely won’t be coming for a second straight year.
Ebron was an absolute touchdown vulture last year … as far as pass-catchers can be touchdown vultures. He found the end zone an astounding 13 times! There were a total of nine players (non-quarterbacks) to have a total of 13 or more touchdowns; the guys on that list Todd Gurley (21), Alvin Kamara (18), Saquon Barkley (15), Antonio Brown (15), Melvin Gordon (14), Kareem hunt (14), Christian McCaffrey (13), James Conner (13), and Eric Ebron (13). Obviously Ebron was in some elite fantasy company with guys who are in the top 5 at their position like clockwork or up-and-coming players who should remain near the top, but can Ebron keep up crossing the goal line at such a frantic pace? You may have noticed Ebron was the only tight end on this list and that’s because tight ends are scoring like that in normal seasons. Looking back we’ve only ever seen seven seasons in which a tight end had hit pay dirt at least 13 times:
|Rob Gronkowski (2011)||17||90||1,327||Most TDs by TE in NFL history|
|Jimmy Graham (2013)||16||86||1,215||Only player besides Gronk with more than 13TDs|
|Antonio Gates (2004)||13||81||964||First TE to reach 13+ scores|
|Vernon Davis (2009)||13||78||965|
|Vernon Davis (2013)||13||52||850||Only TE to make the list twice|
|Tyler Eifert (2015)||13||52||615||Only player on list to reach goal in fewer than 15 games (13)|
|Eric Ebron (2018)||13||66||750|
Ebron was only 25 years old last year when he nabbed those 13 scoring strikes, so it should be easy to assume he’d do it again with a lot of tread left on the tires but only Jimmy Graham (27) and Vernon Davis in 2013 (29) were older than Ebron when they reached that peak. But those younger guys had to tear it up the following year, no? Only two of the six played a full year after catching their 13 scores, and only three of the six caught double-digit scores the following year; Gronk (11), Graham (10), and Gates (10) while the average of touchdowns was cut in half going from 14 to 7 for the big six. Also, let’s not forget to mention that Ebron’s 13 scores in 2018 were more than his first four NFL seasons combined when he nabbed just 11 total TDs. Touchdowns are the flukiest stat to predict for pass catchers, so while Ebron could reel in double-digit scores again in 2019 the odds and his history in this category are far from saying he will get even close. Even if he snags the average of 7TDs like the rest of the group (and if his yards and catches stayed the same) he’s be short 42 points and be missing just shy of 3PPG. So, Ebron should have no problem making up some points in his yardage, right? Ehhh ….
Take a look at the chart in the touchdowns section and what else do you notice about Ebron? His yardage was the second fewest among those seven season, and would have been dead last if Tyler Eifert played a full year when he hit 13TDs. Not only did Ebron not rack up much yardage last year, averaging 47YPG, but he was averaging right around the same yards per game than tight ends like O.J. Howard, Jordan Reed, Austin Hooper, and Vance McDonald, guys that most people could have found on their waiver wires at any given point of the season and tight ends that weren’t helping lead their fantasy owners to title berths, let alone title wins. Just like his scoring, Ebron posted a career-high in yardage with his 750 in 2018. It was just the 2nd time he’s hit the 700-yard threshold while he is averaging 564 yards per season in his career. Ebron has 2,820 yards accumulated in his first five seasons, that’s less than guys like Dustin Keller, Brandon Pettigrew, Freddie Jones, Todd Heap, and Kellen Winslow Jr; and how many of those guys were getting drafted top five at the tight end position in the fantasy world in year six? ZERO!
With 13 touchdowns as well as a career year in yardage, Ebron must have been getting a ton of grabs and targets to propel him into fantasy stardom last year, right? He had himself 110 looks by Andrew Luck last year, by far Ebron’s most targets; he never had more than 86 in a year before and went over 80 twice in four years in Detroit. Of those 110 targets, Ebron reeled in 66 balls, a catch rate of 60%. That’s not good, and to put that in perspective check out how the rest of the top ten tight ends faired in the catch percentage category last year:
Ebron had the worst catch percentage of the top ten tight ends, and only he and David Njoku were under 65% catch rate, but Njoku had just 10 fewer receptions on 21 fewer targets. The four tight ends who had fewer grabs than Ebron last year on this list all would have passed him in the receptions category if they had the 110 targets Ebron was given and stayed on their same catch pace; Rudolph (64 to 86), Burton (54 to 77), Njoku (56 to 69), and McDonald (50 to 75). So of the top ten tight ends last year, Ebron had the worst catch percentage despite those 66 receptions being a career high. Let’s also take this into account, he caught 13 scores on 66 grabs; that’s a touchdown every five catches! No one could keep up that pace. If you look back at the touchdown chart, the guys on the list caught a score on average once every five grabs, so Ebron was right on that pace, however the following season those tight ends caught one score once every nine catches with Rob Gronkowski being the only one to keep the 1:5 ratio in back-to-back seasons. Take one out of nine on 66 grabs and you get 7 touchdowns for Ebron in 2019, and the average touchdown output for tight ends with 13+ scores in a season is 7 so it’s all coming together … just in a negative way for Ebron.
When it all shakes down, Ebron is currently off the board as the 4th tight end behind Kelce, Ertz, and Kittle. Ebron has never finished as a TE1 before last year. He set career-highs in catches, yards, and touchdowns last year. He had a monster year in terms of touchdowns and fantasy points at the tight end position last year. What about this year? The touchdowns won’t hold up, we know that. He will more-than-likely slip in the catches and yardage as well, not to mention Jack Doyle will see more action if he’s healthy and I can see the Colts getting both Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines both getting more touches out of the backfield this season. When it comes down to it, no tight end who had at least 13 receiving touchdowns in a year every outperformed in the following season, and the guys on that list who aren’t named Ebron are either future Hall of Fame members or guys who can’t stay healthy. Ebron is neither a Hall of Famer nor a serious injury risk, he’s kind of just there. He should still have a decent season and finish as a low TE1 or high TE2, but coming off the board as the 4th tight end just doesn’t make logical sense in my mind and that’s a risk I’m not willing to take when I’d be happy to grab 10 other tight ends with later ADP’s. Ebron had a fantastic and rare season in 2018, the odds are stacked way against him to even get close to repeating that performance so if you want to take a risk on Ebron, be my guest, but I’ll be happy to scoop up a useable wide out or running back after someone in my league screws up taking Ebron while I wait on a tight end several rounds later that WILL be better in the fantasy world than Ebron this year because … call me crazy, but Eric Ebron won’t be a top ten tight end in fantasy football in 2019.