Detroit Lions' versatile, confident rookie Eric Ebron ready for do-it-all role

Life has been moving a little quickly the past few months for Eric Ebron.

After the college season, the North Carolina tight end started prepping for the combine, private workouts and meetings and then the draft — all while being followed around by a film crew for Gillette Deodorant's Pressure Points series (you can watch all the fascinating behind-the-scenes episodes here, and the most recent one above).

On draft night, Ebron proposed to his girlfriend during the day on top of the Empire State Building and then later that night was drafted 10th overall by the Detroit Lions, a pick that was panned by some who thought the team needed secondary help but praised by others who felt Ebron could be an immediate starter.

Shortly after, Ebron was whisked away to Detroit and pretty soon he was running next to Calvin Johnson and diving head first into the team's voluminous playbook. Any rest for the weary? Ebron told Shutdown Corner by phone Sunday night that he's doing his best to stay sharp amid the chaos.

"I have been chewing on Advil these past few days," said Ebron, who was set to enjoy his first day off in months on Monday. "My head has been going bonkers. Late nights, early mornings ... it's crazy, but I am really excited and lucky to get to do this."

Tuesday is the start of the Lions' OTAs. The training wheels could start to come off. As for what Ebron will be asked to do, he says he thinks he has a decent idea now that he has absorbed some of the Lions' playbook.

"Everywhere and everything," Ebron said. "I expect to do a little of thing, and a little of that."

When asked how much Ebron thinks he'll be used as an in-line tight end vs. detached as a receiver, Ebron said: "Right now, it's looking like 50-50. That's from me looking at plays, formations, where I am [being asked to line up]. In the slot, as an F-wide receiver, about half out there, half on the line I'd guess."

That's about the same percentage Ebron was split up in college. But he made the most hay working out of the slot, threatening the seam. That was one of the main reasons the Lions were so high on Ebron coming out. He even hinted he could see some time in the backfield in Detroit, too.

"I am not doing anything I didn't do in college — lining up at receiver, lining up as a running back, lining up in the slot," Ebron said. "I did it then and can do it now."

(Ebron wouldn't bite on a follow-up question about lining up in the backfield, perhaps something the coaches asked him to keep quiet about, but that's our own speculation there.)

New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi was the quarterbacks coach with the New Orleans Saints and is bringing elements — a lot of them — of the Saints' playbook with him. The name "Jimmy Graham" already has been invoked when it comes to what Ebron might be able to do with the Lions. After a promising first season with the Saints as he broke into the system, Graham exploded offensively and has averaged 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns the past three seasons.

That's quite the bar for Ebron, although he has far more football experience than Graham — predominantly a basketball player at Miami who played one year of football — did coming into the NFL. There's pressure on Ebron to perform, but he's not connecting himself to Graham straight out.

"I'm flattered they think I can do all that, but I just want to be Eric Ebron," he said. "I hope one day they're comparing other guys to me. But there's a lot to do before that." 

Nor is he going to pull a Jace Amaro. The Jets rookie tight end, the second one taken in the draft after Ebron, recently spoke of setting a 100-catch goal. Ebron says he has no number in mind.

"I think he set a goal that probably won't get reached," he said. "Jace is my boy; we're pretty tight. That's a great goal to have, but I don't have a specific number I am setting. My only goal right now is to help free up Calvin and help us win."

Calvin, of course, is Calvin Johnson, who was beat up last season by teams using every tricked-up and physical coverage known to man in order to stop him. When Johnson was blanketed and banged up, Matthew Stafford was ineffective because there was no one to throw to. That apears to have been alleviated with the additions of Ebron and receiver Golden Tate.

Ebron and Johnson, who share the same agent, have been trading texts and talking, trying to find out how they mightbe able to "help each other out," Ebron said. They plan to talk a lot during OTAs and maybe even get together during some of their down time. Ebron also has been talking to quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is "just a cool guy. It's hard not to like him," Ebron said. 

But Ebron knows that taking pressure off Johnson is as important as anything he'll be asked to do immediately. They've gotten along great so far, but personality-wise, Ebron is the anti-Johnson: He's boisterous, charasmatic and outgoing. There's little doubt Ebron will be embraced by the media and — if he produces as expected — the fans, too. Right now, he's having fun with them as best he can as seen by a t-shirt that now is available in Honolulu Blue.

So can Ebron contain his personality enough to know his place as a rookie while also not putting a lid on it completely? 

"Absolutely. I know my place. But I also am who I am," Ebron said. "The biggest thing for me is to stay grounded, knowing I have a lot to do still, a lot of prove and a lot to gain.

"If I stay confident in my abilities, I believe I will produce. I want to uphold my name as the No. 1 pick of the Lions. The way I can do that is by doing my job, and my job is to help get Calvin open, do what the coaches ask me to do and help the Lions win games. That's all."

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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