Futures: UNC TE Eric Ebron
by Matt Waldman
Eric Ebron is the hot name among the NFL Draft media, but the University of North Carolina tight end isn’t some flash fire that ignited at Chapel Hill in mid-October. The Tar Heel has been ablaze for two seasons –- make it three if you count a searing 20.7 yards per catch average on 10 receptions as a freshman. Tyler Eifert, many a draftnik’s top tight end prospect in 2013’s class, is a moderate bush fire by comparison.
NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks wrote about Ebron this week. He invokedJimmy Graham and Antonio Gates as impact players who Ebron could rival one day if the junior declares for the 2014 NFL Draft. There’s a lot of heft to that statement.
Brooks displayed the restraint not to compare Ebron’s skills directly to Graham and Gates. Such a comparison would be like linking Steve Wonder to Neil Young — both are fine singer-songwriters with instrumental talents, but their styles are too disparate for a fine comparison.
Player comparisons are a problematic exercise. The intent is to provide a functional short hand. Do it well and the comparison can evoke layers of nuanced analysis of physical build, strengths, weaknesses, playing style, and schematic fit. Do it poorly and the end result can be one-dimensional. Worse, display a lack of sophisticated study and you can even have unintentional racial overtones.
I believe a better way to create player comparisons is to add more dimensions to the exercise. It’s far from a perfect method, but it does help me evoke multiple images of players that illustrate layers of analysis you don’t get with just one player.