North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron could have a major impact on an offense once he gets to the NFL.
In his weekly Scout's Take notebook, former NFL scout Bucky Brooks takes a look at the biggest developments in college football and how the NFL community is reacting to them. Among his topics this week (click on link to take you directly there):
The copycat nature of the NFL has prompted several teams to look for an ultra-athletic pass catcher capable of dominating between the hashes. Savvy offensive coordinators are looking to build a dynamic passing game around the next Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates that enters the league.
Based on the buzz circulating in NFL circles, the next great tight end could be North Carolina's Eric Ebron. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound junior is a long, rangy basketball-like athlete with size, speed and agility to overwhelm defenders on the second level. He is simply too fast and explosive for most linebackers to shadow down the seam, but is too big and physical for safeties and nickel corners to hold up in coverage. With such a decided advantage against defenders, Ebron offers offensive coordinators an intriguing option to use to create mismatches in space.
Against Miami (Fla.), Ebron's exceptional talent and potential was on display in an eight-catch, 199-yard performance that showcased his versatile skills as a hybrid tight end. He made plays down the seam on vertical routes, while also gaining separation from defenders on short- and intermediate crossing routes. Additionally, Ebron showed the ability to run away from the defense on "catch-and-run" passes, which makes him a dangerous threat in a passing game that places a premium on getting the ball quickly into the hands of playmakers.
From a blocking standpoint, Ebron is a sticky blocker capable of battling physical defenders on the edges. Although he isn't the nastiest or most physical blocker at the point of attack, Ebron does a decent job of using body position to stay in front of defenders to seal the edges. Now, he still needs to make major strides to thrive as an end-line tight end at the next level, but he is certainly a functional blocker capable of staying on the field as a "move" tight end in open formations.
With Ebron flashing some of the same traits that have made Graham and Gates dominant pass catchers in league where athleticism is valued at the tight end position, the North Carolina standout could emerge as the top tight end in the 2014 or 2015 draft class.