The draft is finally upon us and the only sure thing is the Buffalo Bills are going to select a player or two at some point. Who, what and when are total mysteries for everyone involved, including the Bills. That said, after the Bills draft luncheon last week I am overwhelmingly convinced that they will be drafting North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron with their first round pick.
My reasoning is based on the ideas that the Bills will not trade up (too steep of a price) and that the players they truly want (Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Jake Matthews) will be off the board. If the noted dominoes all fall, that leaves Ebron as the most logical and thus likely selection.
Throughout the offseason Bills GM Doug Whaley has professed routinely how he wants to give second year quarterback EJ Manuel as many weapons as possible to succeed. He also stated that he was looking for a receiver that possessed height and an ability to go get jump balls, and Ebron just so happens to be that type of receiver.
Whaley has also done a lot of double talk the last few weeks. He’s made remarks on how the tight end position has evolved. It may seem like innuendo, or Whaley trying to lead everyone astray, but it was a year ago EJ Manuel thought the Bills were going to select him and that turned out to be true. It appears history may repeat itself as Ebron has stated he thinks the Bills will draft him.
From a physical evaluation, Ebron is a prime example of the blurred lines of what a tight end should be in today’s NFL. History mandates a tight end to be proficient in blocking first and catching second. In today’s NFL, a tight end rarely blocks and is looked at as a big athletic receiver. Think of how the Saints, Patriots, 49ers, and Chargers operate their offense around tight ends who are more receiver than tight end.
For the Bills, Ebron would represent a receiver that stands 6’4″ and has arms that measure 33 inches in length. That height and wingspan will create a larger catching radius for Manuel to target in his passes. Ebron is also nearly as fast as most receivers. He ran a 4.6 second 40-yard dash which holds up well compared to top ten prospect Mike Evans, who ran a 4.53. These measurements lead me to believe that the Bills don’t need to draft a tall, athletic and rangy wide out.
What also helps this theory is that Doug Marrone was an assistant coach under Saints head coach Sean Payton. Marrone likely knows most of the same offensive concepts that Payton currently uses for Jimmy Graham. That translation of offensive philosophies, and the fact that Marrone has also preached originality on offense, likely means a multipurpose weapon like Ebron can and will be utilized properly. If given a competent tight end, Marrone should know how to maximize their talents on the field.
Beyond that, it is clear that Manuel has no issues throwing to a tight end. With the outside weapons now present, especially after the Mike Williams trade, the selection of Ebron allows the Bills to make the next step in bringing their offense into the NFL’s 21st century.