ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) - The Detroit Lions have made a habit out of taking pass-catching prospects in the NFL draft.
Detroit drafted North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron with the No. 10 pick Thursday night, a slightly surprising selection because of its depth at the position and glaring needs elsewhere on the roster.
“They know they made the right decision,” Ebron said Friday afternoon at Lions headquarters. “And in my mind, they made the right decision.”
The Lions became the first team since the start of the common draft in 1967 to use a first-round pick on a tight end or wide receiver in at least six drafts over a 12-year span, not counting supplemental selections, according to STATS LLC.
Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Caldwell look and sound fired up about the latest one.
Mayhew and Caldwell envision the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Ebron creating matchup problems for defenses that also have to scheme to stop Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Brandon Pettigrew and Reggie Bush.
“That should be very, very difficult to handle,” Caldwell said.
Mayhew said offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi ranked Ebron No. 2 on his wish list behind only Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who was drafted No. 4 overall by the Buffalo Bills.
“He is going to be a natural fit offensively based on what our new offensive coordinator is going to put in place using some of the New Orleans Saints offensive system,” Mayhew said.
Former North Carolina coach Butch Davis thought Ebron was such a natural athlete that he offered him a scholarship during the school’s football camp going into his junior year in high school even though he wasn’t actively playing the sport.
“I hadn’t played a lick,” Ebron said.
Ebron was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, where he played little league football until walking away from the sport when he was about 10 because of the death of his grandfather.
“Pretty much lost touch on life,” he recalled. “Then my mom told me that I wasn’t going to sit on the couch my whole life, so I had to do something. Now I am here doing something.”
After the death of her father, Gina Jackson took her family to Greensboro, North Carolina, and encouraged the youngest of her three sons to get back on the field.
“I needed something to get him out of that rut,” she recalled.
Playing football proved to be an outlet for Ebron, who the Lions hope produces anything like Calvin Johnson or Brandon Pettigrew have and not like Charles Rogers, Roy Williams or Mike Williams failed to do for them.
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