Last year was a disappointing season for Eric Ebron, but he’s looking to make an impact for a new team in 2020. After spending two years with the Indianapolis Colts, Ebron signed a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers this past offseason. He was a fantasy football darling in 2018, so his 2019 campaign was a letdown from both a fantasy and real-life perspective. But, the new system and new quarterback in Pittsburgh could have Eric Ebron‘s outlook trending up entering the season.
Fantasy Football: Eric Ebron Profile
To say Eric Ebron’s 2019 season was underwhelming would be an understatement. He was coming off a 2018 season that saw him total 14 touchdowns and 750 yards on 66 receptions. Those numbers propelled Ebron to the number four tight end in 2018. In 2019, Ebron was taken as the 12th tight end on average in fantasy drafts. The unexpected retirement of Andrew Luck hurt Ebron’s outlook in 2019, as well as a general feeling that he wouldn’t be able to repeat his 2018 performance.
The doubters were proven correct, as Ebron finished the 2019 season as the 23rd-ranked fantasy tight end. His numbers for the year were a measly 375 yards on 31 receptions and three touchdowns. A couple of things went wrong for Eric Ebron in 2019. First, there was the drop-off in the level of quarterback play on the Colts. Ebron and Luck built a serious connection in 2018, and the chemistry just wasn’t there with Jacoby Brissett in 2019. Look no further than this stat: in 2018, Luck had a passer rating of 112.3 when targeting Ebron. In 2019, Brissett’s passer rating when targeting Ebron was just 77.
Another major issue for Eric Ebron in 2019 was his health, or lack thereof. He only appeared in 11 of 16 games last year, and played just 30% of snaps for the Colts. An ankle injury and a trip to IR cut Ebron’s season short after week 11, though he was battling injuries throughout the season as well. Finally, an uptick in drops was a problem for Ebron last season. He was never known to be a sure-handed tight end, but he had drops on almost 10% of his targets in 2019. A player with that many drops is largely frustrating for fantasy football players.
Higher expectations for Ebron in 2020 mostly stem from his change of scenery to Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger has historically liked throwing to his tight ends, especially over the middle of the field and in the red zone. Those two areas were major struggles for Pittsburgh last season without Roethlisberger. They rarely threw the ball over the middle of the field and they had the worst red zone efficiency in the NFL. With Roethlisberger back, there’s little doubt that the team will improve in these crucial areas. That simply means more opportunities for Eric Ebron.
There are a few factors working against Ebron this year in Pittsburgh, too. While the return of Roethlisberger means better performances from the Steelers offense, it also means the team’s wide receivers should do more damage. Pittsburgh has a ton of young talent at wide receiver, they just didn’t get the chance to shine last year due to the poor quarterback play. While Ebron will likely be a priority for Roethlisberger in the red zone, so will JuJu Smith-Schuster and rookie Chase Claypool. The same goes for targets over the middle of the field. Some combination of Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington will get a lot of looks in that area, too.
Perhaps the biggest thing working against Eric Ebron’s fantasy value in 2020 is his pairing with Vance McDonald. While they will likely utilize a lot of 12 personnel this season, don’t expect Ebron to play more than 60% of the offensive snaps, assuming both guys are healthy. And even that number might be generous. While he’s versatile as a receiving weapon, Ebron doesn’t offer much as a blocker. That could hurt his snap count some, as there might not be a spot on the field for him in short yardage, potential play action situations.
Eric Ebron Average Draft Position
Fantasy Pros currently ranks Ebron as TE20 in PPR leagues. They slot him in their fourth tier of tight ends, alongside guys like Blake Jarwin, Chris Herndon, and Irv Smith. For reference, McDonald is ranked TE34, at the bottom of tier five. So while they might see similar stat counts, the expectations are for Ebron to have a more involved role in the passing game.
The dilemma with drafting Ebron this year is that he’s the typical boom or bust, high risk vs. high reward player. If he becomes a preferred target of Roethlisberger, especially in the red zone, then Ebron will outperform expectations. On the other hand, if he’s dealing with injuries, dropping passes, or losing snaps to McDonald, it could be another down year. Ebron’s ceiling is pretty high (see his 2018 season), but his floor is also low (2019).
This is just the opinion of one person, but Eric Ebron is worth the risk in 2020. Even if he struggles like last season, he should at least have respectable stats due to a high volume of targets. It would be a big shock if Ebron didn’t become a go-to weapon for Roethlisberger. Someone who will see a healthy number of targets in the red zone is worth taking higher than TE20.
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