Fantasy Football Impact of Eric Ebron Joining Steelers

How does Eric Ebron's fantasy football value change now that he's signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers?
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On the same day that Todd Gurley signed with the Atlanta Falcons and Melvin Gordon inked a deal with the Denver Broncos, a more underrated signing took place. Tight end Eric Ebron agreed to a two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The fantasy impact of this signing is significant. 

Let's start with Ebron himself. He had a renaissance season back in 2018 with the Indianapolis Colts, finishing as the No. 4 tight end in PPR formats both overall and on a per-game basis. He played all 16 games that season, catching 66 passes for 750 yards and a whopping 13 touchdowns. His second season in Indianapolis didn't go nearly as well.

Many rightfully expected touchdown regression in 2019, but Ebron was pretty ineffective overall before being placed on IR last season with an ankle injury. He finished with 31-375-3 over 11 games, good enough to be the TE25 overall and the TE17 on a per-game basis. That was a far cry from his preseason ADP.

So what does his 2020 outlook look like?

The biggest factors in his path to success in 2020 is his own health and the health of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. As for the former, there seems to be little question about the tight end being ready for camp. You can check that box. For the latter, good news emerged just hours before Ebron signed. Barring a setback, Roethlisberger appears poised to start in Week 1. 

"I have no doubts I'm going to be able to come back and play well—none," Roethlisberger said. "I'm throwing without pain for the first time in years."

One other factor to consider is the presence of Vance McDonald. McDonald's number plummeted last season with Pittsburgh's back-up quarterbacks at the helm, but he was pretty successful with Roethlisberger in 2018. That season, McDonald finished as the TE11 overall and TE15 on a per-game basis. 

However, it's fair to say even that amount of "success" is limited. Here are McDonald's finishes among all tight ends on a per-game basis during his three seasons with the Steelers:

2017: TE44
2018: TE15
2019: TE17

That's all to say that McDonald shouldn't pose much of a threat to Ebron's production, particularly in the red zone. Ebron certainly has his flaws, and I'm still not 100% sold on his drop issues not becoming a major problem again. However, he's a true red zone threat that should have plenty of opportunities to score on a much-improved Steelers offense this coming season. 

If you're hoping for 2018 numbers from Ebron, you'll likely be disappointed. However, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he flirts with 10 touchdowns if he plays all 16 games. An optimistic, but realistic projection for Ebron over a full season in Pittsburgh would be 60-700-6. That'll likely be good enough for TE1 territory.

The big question is where should he be drafted? I can't find a way to have him inside my preseason Top 10. I'd have him behind, in no particular order, Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Zach Ertz, Darren Waller, Mark Andrews, Austin Hooper, Hunter Henry, Evan Engram, Jared Cook and Jack Doyle. Ebron is in the next group with Dallas Goedert, Tyler Higbee, Noah Fant, Mike Gesicki and O.J. Howard. 

View Ebron as a high-upside option to take near the end of your draft if you wait on tight end. At that ADP, you won't be too disappointed if things don't work out and you may even find a gem. 

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