Eric Ebron Selection Has Lions Written All Over It
By Scott McMahon
Don’t get me wrong, I think Eric Ebron has the potential to be the Jimmy Graham wide receiver-tight end hybrid that the Detroit Lions drafted him to be. New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi watched Graham completely transform the New Orleans Saints offense over the past few years, and was clearly determined to bring that same dimension to Detroit. The Ebron pick will certainly give the Lions offense another playmaker, which has been an obvious strategy of the team's front office this offseason.
Adding another weapon to an already potent Lions offense sounds great - Matthew Stafford should have no shortage of targets to throw to. But I think the Lions missed with their first round selection on Thursday night by selecting an offensive skill player. Their needs on defense were far greater than anything they may have needed on the offensive side of the ball.
As many Lions fans may know, questionable first round draft picks are nothing new to Detroit in recent history. The selection of Ebron is just the latest addition to a list that has puzzled Lions fans for years now.
Ebron comes to Detroit with the intention that he will bring a Graham-esque dimension to the Lions offense. In drafting Ebron, the Lions passed on solidifying their shaky secondary with a guy like Darqueze Dennard or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in favor of adding another offensive weapon.
The Lions have often prioritized offense over their defense, even when the team’s most pressing needs have come on the defensive side of the ball. However, many of those questionable picks were submitted under past administrations, which is why this pick surprised me so much. Ebron’s production obviously remains to be seen, but he’ll have to really impress me to get the sour taste of this pick out of my mouth.
Nick Fairley (2011)
As much as I’ve talked about the Lions prioritizing offense, they didn’t in the first round of 2011 when they drafted Fairley. Detroit had just drafted Ndamukong Suh the year before and did not seem to be in need of another defensive tackle. Rather, the offensive line was in need of bolstering, a position that went ignored until the team took Johnny Culbreath in the seventh round.
Fairley has been decent in his few years with the Lions, but has not done much to earn his billing as a first-round pick. At the time, the pick was questionable because the defensive line didn’t represent a pressing need, and Fairley’s contributions since have not done much to justify his selection.
Brandon Pettigrew (2009)
The Lions got their obvious need out of the way with the first overall pick, taking Stafford to lead a team that went 0-16 the year before. Luck was on their side, as the Lions also had the 20th overall pick...which they spent on a tight end.
This pick surprised me back then because the Lions had just come off of a tremendously bad season and were in clear need of revamping much of the entire team. Detroit lacked a core outside of a decent offensive line and Pro Bowl WR Calvin Johnson. The defense had no clear-cut leader, which should have been addressed at pick No. 20. Taking a tight end was not the right selection here, and Pettigrew’s frustrating performance has proven that.
Hindsight is 20/20, but who did the Lions miss out on by taking Pettigrew? The Packers took LB Clay Matthews just six picks later, Pittsburgh nabbed Ziggy Hood at No. 32, and the Bills selected S Jairus Byrd midway through the second round.
Mike Williams (2005)
Here we go. Why former GM Matt Millen and the front office thought another wide receiver was necessary is beyond me, and beyond many Lions fans. It’s easy to put a guy like Williams on this list because of how much of a bust he turned out to be, but even on draft day, this pick was a mystery.
Detroit's last two first round picks were wide receivers (Roy Williams and Charles Rogers), so it made zero sense why the Lions felt compelled to take another. Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of this pick was Williams’ story over the previous year. He declared for the draft as a sophomore on the coattails of Ohio State’s Maurice Clarett, after a federal judge ruled that the NFL could not prevent Clarett from entering the draft. However, that judge’s decision was overruled by a higher court, meaning that Williams, who had already hired an agent and lost his remaining NCAA eligibility, had to sit out the 2004 season and wait until the 2005 NFL Draft.
Add Williams’ poor decision-making with the fact that the team had no need at all for a first-round wide receiver, and you still get fans scratching their heads on this pick.
Roy Williams (2004)
This selection was a little more understandable, but still questionable nonetheless. Charles Rogers had missed much of 2003 with a broken collarbone, and the team still thought that more targets were needed for then-franchise QB Joey Harrington.
However, the Lions had just drafted Rogers the year before and had much more pressing needs to address. The team had gone 5-11 and struggled all season with its running game. The defense also struggled at times and lacked much depth in its linebacker corps and secondary.
Williams ended up being a bust (although his 2006 season was promising), which again makes it easy to put him on this list. But like Mike Williams a year later, Roy Williams was just not necessary at the time. The Lions had the seventh overall pick and had a plethora of holes to fill.
The unfortunate thing for Ebron joining this list is that the four other players here have either not entirely lived up to their first-round billing or have just been complete busts. Ebron has his entire career ahead of him, and enters Detroit with some incredible resources to learn from. The sky really is the limit for Ebron, and he has every chance in the world to succeed in this new Lions system.
However, selecting Ebron was just not the right pick for Detroit with the needs that the team had.