Welcome Lions fans to the second annual detroitlionspodcast.com Draftmas celebration. For those of you unfamiliar with this holiday, it is a celebration of the NFL draft. There was a time in Lions history where national broadcasters started to refer to draft day as the “Lions’ Superbowl.” Well, fuck those people, let’s own this! This celebration starts small, but expands over it’s eight day length to an editor crippling size. On the seventh day God rested, but on the eighth day was Draftmas.
On the First Day of Draftmas Ash Thompson Gave to Me: One Unpopular Truth
Drafting a tight end in the first two rounds would be a good move for the Lions long term. I know you don’t want to hear it. Hell, it has taken me four months to come to terms with it and I’m an Eric Ebron fan. The reason is not that Ebron is a bust. He is a top ten receiving tight end in the NFL. If you’re expectations were higher than that well, that’s on you sparky, not him. The reason for drafting a tight end also has nothing to do with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez ripping up the league in 2011 for a combined 2,237 yards. That would be nice, as that’s a bigger chunk of yardage than Golden Tate and Marvin Jones managed in 2016, but it is not the reason.
The reason is that in 2017 Eric Ebron’s fifth year option will amount to the average cap hit of the top ten tight ends in the league. That’s approximately $9.1 million as of this writing. His next contract will likely pay more than 30 million dollars over the following three years years, but to keep the math easy I will call it $40 million total from 2018-2021. The Number 21 pick in the 2017 draft will be paid $10.9 million over that same period. Pick 53 will be paid $4.8 million over their four year rookie deal. Cap savings at that position would be $30-35 million. Whether you hate Ebron or love him, that amount of per-season salary cap space would have netted the Lions any of the following players in this off-season or last:
- TJ Lang
- Nick Fairley
- Prince Amukamara
- Micah Hyde
- Dion Sims
- Tyrelle Pryor
- Brandon Marshall
- Cordarelle Patterson
- Kam Chancellor
- Johnathan Joseph
- Morgan Burnett
- David Harris
The Value of Eric Ebron at Tight End
Whether you love or hate Ebron, I think we can all agree that his skill set does not include half of the tight end role: blocking. That means that when you are determining the value of keeping him, you need to value him based on his receiving production only, and he will not produce more receiving yards than most of the receivers listed above. The ones he is likely to outperform will cost half his price for their new teams. Every non-receiver I listed above is a much better player than Ebron at their position. They would also impact the Lions’ roster more than the difference between Ebron’s next few seasons and David Njoku’s first few seasons.
It is a matter of simple resource management to say that the Lions would be making a wise decision to draft a tight end high in 2017 and allow Ebron to walk next season. He will be paid enough to net them a good compensatory draft pick. Love him or hate him, it is unlikely that a late round tight end is going to step in to the league and produce quickly enough to let the Lions avoid picking up Ebron’ fifth year option. The only reason to not have already done so is that they are hoping to avoid being forced to do so.