The tight end position was fairly nondescript in 2016, with only 3.7 points per game separating the TE1 from the TE12. That being said, the market for tight ends is soft as owners feel they can find starters in the later parts of drafts, or by giving very little in a trade.
Many in the fantasy community consider Eric Ebron a huge disappointment considering the Lions invested the 10th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft (two picks ahead of Odell Beckham Jr.) on him. Before we call him a bust, however, it’s important to understand the career arc of the tight end position typically takes 2-3 years before we see significant production.
With this perspective, let’s take a look at Ebron’s career trajectory:
A closer look at his stats actually shows he’s progressing extremely well. Ebron saw nice increases in receptions, yards, and TDs from 2014 to 2015. This positive trend continued for receptions and yards into 2016…but something happened to his TDs. That something was the acquisition of the 36-year-old Anquan Boldin.
Simply put, Ebron’s TD shares were taken by Boldin in 2016. Boldin accounted for an absurd 33% TD share in Detroit’s passing game last year with 8-TDs. Why is this important?
Because Boldin is no longer on the roster!
At 6’4”, 250 lbs., Ebron is an ideal red zone target for the Lions. He showed success in 2015 with 5- TDs and all indications were he was trending upwards into 2016. He very quietly continued the upward trend with targets, receptions, and yards – but he fell short with only one TD. If, for example, he would’ve seen a similar trajectory with his TDs that he did with receptions and yards. Ebron would’ve finished with 7- TDs in 2016; that difference in scoring would’ve placed him firmly as the TE3 on a per-game basis.
As it stands, Ebron finished 2016 as the TE12. Without the TD vulture Boldin in his way, Ebron is a solid bet to climb the ranks of fantasy tight ends in 2017…and at 24 years old; he’s also a great dynasty asset to invest in before he “breaks out.”