By: Little Italy (Publisher)
Follow on Twitter: @LILITALY853
In this series I will take one player from each team to add to my All 32 Bust Team for 2021.
TE: Eric Ebron
“O Canada! Our home and native land!” No don’t worry this piece to the Canadian National Anthem isn’t to reveal that Mapletron is a bust in 2021, it’s to reveal that Matt Canada, the new OC, is going to be one of the reasons why Eric Ebron is my next selection for the All 32 Bust Team. Matt Canada takes over this Pittsburgh offense from Randy Fichtner for the 2021 season, and reports out of camp are we can expect a different look offense from a season ago. Last season Big Ben dropped back to pass on average of 40.5 attempts a game. A lot of these passes where underneath or “shallow” throws, due to his elbow injury from 2019. This is why Ebron was able to see 91 targets in this offense, which was the fourth most on the team behind the trio of Diontae, JuJu, and Claypool. This target share would return a TE10 finish to the season from Ebron.
Fast forward to 2021, I would say many are going to be drafting Ebron as a backend TE1 based off his fantasy finish last season, a move that will cost them dearly. The Pittsburgh Steelers have told us, without telling us, what they want this offense to look like, and that is a return to the run game with their selections of Najee Harris in the first and Pat Freiermuth 55th overall in the second. This return to the run game will limit Ben’s attempts for games and create a passing attack by design. What I mean by this is the run game will create more “eight in the box,” looks from opposing defenses, which will in turn lead to more outside looks. The two that should benefit most with this projection are Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson, with both JuJu and Ebron taking a hit. Another factor that has me low on Ebron in 2021 is the rookie RB Harris himself. He is damning to Ebron because he is one of the better run after catch backs we’ve seen in years, and I feel Ben will look to him as that “Blanky” when he isn't stretching the field with the outside guys. So, now Ebron goes from that #4 option in the passing attack to the #5 option.
Speaking of options and change in offensive philosophy, I believe Ebron is going to be sidelined more than people think. The 77.9% of offensive snaps he took in 2020 should drop significantly in 2021. Watching film on Ebron from last season, it is clear that he is below average when it comes to run blocking. In Fact, according to PFF, out of the 79 tight ends with 100 or more run blocking snaps Ebron came in ranked 75th. This is why the team went and secured a top run blocking tight end in this year’s draft, who is also a very capable pass catcher. Run blocking was not the only issue for Ebron in 2020, as he finished the year tied for the third most drops by a tight end with seven, and was tied for the most penalties committed by the position with seven. To put this all in perspective for you, Ebron finished 41st ranked out of 49 tight ends with 25 or more targets according to PFF’s grading scale.
Many will look to the top ten finish in fantasy last season and be blindly led astray by Ebron's second half of the season. It was in Ebron's final six games played that he had the three 11 target/7 reception games, which included the playoff loss to the Browns. This signified that Ebron took some time to get comfortable in this offense. Now, with limited snaps coming and yet another, slightly different, offense to learn Ebron will be asked to do the same, which I believe he will struggle with. My projections have him seeing a 14.8% drop in numbers from last season, which comes out to 78 targets/48 receptions/478 yards/4 touchdowns. This projection would make him my TE24 with 119.8 fantasy points. Compared to his current ADP of TE17 (144.4 overall), that screams BUST!! I would much rather take all these guys who have an ADP greater than TE17, Irv Smith (TE19), Tyler Higbee (TE18), Austin Hooper (TE20), and Jared Cook (TE22). The opportunity is much greater for all these tight ends in their respective offenses, and we all know opportunity creates fantasy points.