Eric Ebron signed a two-year contract with Indianapolis being released by the Lions on March 14th. Ebron can earn up to $15 million dollars over these next two years in Indianapolis.
What are the Colts getting in their new tight end? The reality is that Ebron is a tight end only in name. He isn’t a blocker. In fact, Ebron is much closer to a receiver like Anquan Boldin than he is Rob Gronkowski. Ebron is an excellent athlete that runs well and has good change of direction skills and explosion. He is a space player, not an inline guy, but he hasn’t been overly effective deep downfield as you might expect. Maybe that changes in Indianapolis and he is a much different type of tight end than Jack Doyle.
The Lions have featured more or less the worst running game in the NFL over the past few years. Ebron contributed to that with his inability to secure the edge as a blocker, although it should be noted that he is slowly improving as a blocker. Ebron was drafted 10th overall in 2014. One of his biggest crimes is that the Lions selected Ebron ahead of Odell Beckham and Aaron Donald. He began the season very slow and still drops too many passes. But Ebron also improved throughout the 2017 season. He caught just one pass in Detroit’s final game of the season, but before that Ebron hauled in 32 passes in the previous seven games last year. We know that tight ends rarely come into the league and set the NFL on fire. Tight ends usually hit their stride around age 27. Ebron will not turn 25-years-old until April.
Erik Swoope also returns to the Colts after missing the entire season with a knee injury. Swoope is the typical basketball-to-football convert and he too has mismatch ability and untapped potential.
The addition of Ebron, and to a lesser degree the return of Swoope, is important to this offense because of who is now running it. Frank Reich is Indianapolis’ new head coach after coming over from Philadelphia. Nick Sirianni will be coordinating the offense after coming over from the Chargers.
The Eagles utilized the tight end position a great deal and preferred playing with multiple tight ends with varied skill sets on the field together. Meanwhile, the Chargers have featured athletic tight ends as well as any offense in the league of late. Ebron is ideal for the Trey Burton role. Reich, Sirianni and Andrew Luck will do an excellent job of moving him all over the formation.
The Colts also added Ryan Grant on a one-year deal. He should get early playing time and is quite possibly the number two wide out behind TY Hilton. Indianapolis had a striking amount of inexperience in their wide receivers before signing Grant, a very good route runner with some ability after the catch. Still, there isn’t much of consequence at wide receiver for the Colts outside of Hilton, which really opens the door for Ebron to be a valuable receiver in this offense immediately.
Fantasy Spin: Ebron remains fantasy relevant for this year in Indianapolis. Doyle will be the every down tight end, but the Colts should be playing from behind quite a bit in 2017 and as mentioned above, Ebron has value as a receiver and near the goal line. Ebron is capable of creating mismatches and Luck should manipulate him well presnap to create advantages in the passing game. It would take a lot for Ebron to become an every week starter for fantasy, but in dynasty (where there is a major shortage at the position right now) Ebron is someone to target in trade right now on the cheap, especially if we get good news concerning Luck’s health.