The record-setting tight end would fill a presumed need for the Packers, with Jermichael Finley coming off spinal-fusion surgery and heading to free agency. Green Bay owns the 21st pick of the first round, which is right about in line with where scouts have him at this early stage of the scouting process, sources have said.
Ebron (6-4, 250) holds North Carolina's single-season and career records among tight ends with 55 catches for 895 yards this season and 105 receptions for 1,727 yards for his career. His single-season numbers trailed only Texas Tech's Jace Amaro this season, and his 2013 yardage total broke the ACC record held by Vernon Davis, who is one of the NFL's top tight ends with San Francisco.
"The way I play my game," Ebron said when asked what separates him from other tight ends. "I just do different things than other tight ends do. If you watch film, you'll probably say the same thing."
Ebron, a junior entry, was a finalist for the Mackey Award, which goes to the nation's top tight end. He is considered one of the three top tight ends in this year's draft, alongside Amaro and Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
An inch shorter and a few pounds heavier than Finley, Ebron would provide a Finley-like skill-set as that tall, athletic, big-play target. Ebron, like Finley, is supremely confident in his skills. His offensive coordinator at North Carolina, Blake Anderson, called Ebron "a handful, personality-wise, which can be good and bad."
Ebron showed that personality at the center podium at Lucas Oil Stadium. Yes, he spoke with a confidence that bordered on cockiness. In that regard, he didn't sound all that different than Finley. However, in the same breath, Ebron said he needed to work on "everything," including his blocking, to reach his potential.
That potential is immense.
"I'm not going to sell myself but I'm very fast," Ebron said. "I'm very different. I play the tight end role like no one else."
Confidence or ego aside, Ebron would provide an obvious asset, assuming Finley isn't retained. The offense missed Finley after he sustained a career-threatening neck injury against Cleveland in October. Finley caught 25 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns in, officially, six games. In reality, he put up those numbers in about five games, as he missed most of the Cincinnati game with a concussion. Without Finley, Andrew Quarless assumed the mantle of No. 1 tight end. Quarless -- who also is heading to free agency -- caught 29 passes in the 11 games that Finley missed after the injury.
The Packers' holes on defense are obvious but Ebron is one of the few difference-makers in this year's tight end class.
More and more, tight ends are the X-factor on offense. The good ones, like Finley, create mismatches because they're too tall for a safety to cover but too fast for a linebacker to cover. Time and again in his abbreviated 2013 season, Finley turned a 1-yard pass into a 10-yard gain because he was too big and too physical to be tackled in the open field.
"It's become more demanding, the tight end position," Ebron said. "There's become more of a need for talent, speed, and athleticism rather than big bulky just blocking tight ends. It's become a need of special people to play that position in order to create different mismatches and better offenses so I feel like I fit right in."