The Detroit Lions used a top 10 pick in the 2014 NFL draft to select a tight end -- well, sort of.
"People ask me to compare him to Vernon Davis. He's not as quick or as twitchy as Davis, but he's a better athlete with better hands," said draft expert Mike Mayock on NFL Network. "Everything this kid does is easy. He is one of best athletes I've seen at that size. When you combine him with Joseph Fauria and Brandon Pettigrew, all of a sudden Matthew Stafford has a lot of weapons on that offense."
Although the pick has drawn mixed reviews at first glance from fans, here are three reasons why Lions faithful can rest assured that this was the right choice.
The Lions offense will be under the control of new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who will also own the play calling responsibilities.
Lombardi has been the quarterbacks coach in New Orleans since 2009, where he witnessed the value of a big-bodied, pass catching tight end first hand. Since 2011, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham has averaged well over 1,100 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns a season.
Lombardi will take chunks of the Saints playbook with him to Detroit and now has the chess piece necessary to fill the vital role Graham occupied in New Orleans.
Furthermore, Ebron represents the pass catcher that the Lions felt they needed to complement Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate in order to complete their offense.
It's not just about need with the Lions. General Manager Martin Mayhew has been transparent in his belief that the Lions will select the "best player available for them" and not reach to fill a position they felt needed attention. They believe Ebron is one of the draft's elite prospects and it's not hard to see why.
Although, Ebron is slotted to fill Graham's role in the Lions new playbook, he isn't necessarily the same type of player.
Ebron is a couple inches shorter and 15 pounds lighter than Graham but he is more athletic. He is the ultimate mismatch for both linebackers and defensive backs and offers an array of skills that could be lethal in Detroit's attack.
Not only would Ebron be among the quickest tight ends in the league, he also is a great route runner and can catch the ball deep as well as run after the catch.
His catch radius is huge and he has demonstrated solid hands with the ability to make spectacular catches.
In short, he has all the physical tools to be a special playmaker at the NFL level.
Ebron has not demonstrated any off-the-field issues. His red flags are limited and there doesn't seem to be any character concerns surrounding him.
He also will be a 21-year-old rookie, pushing his upside even further. Leaving North Carolina as a junior means he had less time to refine his game but also means the Lions coaching staff will get their hands on him at an early age and have a chance to mold him through a practice and training regimen that aligns with their vision.
Ultimately, there are no sure picks in the NFL. Ebron will need to put in countless hours of painstaking work on and off the field to reach his potential. Still, the Lions have secured a player with one of the highest ceilings among this draft class as well as one who ideally fits their vision on offense.