Every Saturday -- or close to it -- we'll take one of your questions and use it for the Detroit Lions Mailbag. To ask a question for a future Mailbag, use the hashtag #LionsMailbag on Twitter -- or better yet, email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or give a follow on Facebook and shoot me a note there.
Will Eric Ebron finally rid himself of the cement blocks for hands that he entered the league with? #LionsMailbag— Ronnie 1K (@shamshammgod) August 11, 2017
This is one of the most common criticisms I hear about Eric Ebron -- and I get it. I completely do. At this point, Ebron would have to be a multi-year Pro Bowler in order to satisfy some Lions fans. Even then, there might be some who aren't happy about it because of he was taken ahead of a few generational talents -- receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
But if you take the draft selection out of it -- and I know that's difficult -- Ebron has been a pretty productive player for Detroit when he's been healthy. To me, the health is a bigger factor with him than the drops considering he has yet to play a full season in his career.
Here's his drop rates, though, as he's become more involved in the offense. His drop percentage as a rookie was 8.3 percent. In 2015, it was 10.1 percent. Both of those are too high. Last season, he cut back to 5.8 percent. The raw numbers are somewhat similar: Four in 2014, seven in 2015 and five last season. He was still tied for sixth among tight ends in drop percentage last season with Houston's C.J. Fiedorowicz.
There has been improvement, though, considering he's being targeted more often and has a larger role in the offense. With Ebron's athleticism and potential, drops are probably going to be something the Lions will have to live with from time to time.
Within the Lions, Marvin Jones Jr., Theo Riddick, TJ Jones, Dwayne Washington and Andre Roberts had larger drop percentages than Ebron last season. Ebron and Anquan Boldin dropped the same amount of passes -- five -- but Boldin's percentage was slightly less because he saw six more targets. Really, the only true sure-handed receiver the Lions had was Golden Tate and he still dropped 3.8 percent of his passes.
Drops always seem to be a problem for Lions receivers -- getting used to the velocity Matthew Stafford throws with is sometimes an issue for new pass-catchers. And the Lions are trying to mitigate it this season by using glasses that temporarily hinder vision for receivers to help with concentration.
It'll be tough to know how much that helps until the season plays out.
Going back to Ebron, he dropped two of 23 targets last season on third downs. That's not the best number on critical downs, but it was by far his biggest workload there. Perhaps more importantly, he had no drops last season in the fourth quarters of games on 22 targets. He caught 14 of those passes for 222 yards.
All of this is to say there's reason to believe Ebron will be more reliable catching passes this season. He's improved every year he's been in the league. But to expect him to be a completely sure-handed receiver who never has a drop or two is probably unrealistic.
For the Lions, his health and red zone production are the bigger concerns for me. Besides missing at least a couple games a season, he had just six red zone targets last season. He caught five of those attempts for 32 yards and a touchdown, but that production is not great. I'd expect that to bump up this season with Boldin gone, and though it won't likely be at his five-touchdown level from 2015, he could end up with three or four red zone scores this season considering he'll be a bigger red zone threat for Stafford.