After signing his two-year deal, Eric Ebron seems poised to start with the Steelers. Will that translate to a startable fantasy football season?
Eric Ebron seems like an enigma entering his first year in a Steelers uniform. Some fans see him as the weapon the Steelers have needed for years, while others see him as the next “one and done” free agent signing. While he certainly adds a lot of talent to the position, there are some obvious question marks about just how high his ceiling could be.
These questions are big for the team, but for the casual fan, there are a lot of question marks about his fantasy football value. The TE position has become one that can win owners leagues, as the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, and George Kittle have become dominant staples in the early rounds of fantasy drafts. Ebron isn’t in that tier, but the question is, where does his value fall and can he be a consistent starter?
What does it mean to start as a Steeler TE?
Looking at the position as a whole for the Steelers, Ebron and Vance McDonald on paper make up a tantalizing duo. The problem is, neither of these guys play the 85 percent or more snaps like a Kelce would in a season. While both may be starters, neither is likely to see more than 55 percent of the offensive plays. The only time McDonald has done that was last year, which led to him struggling through injury most of the year, while Ebron has done it a couple of times, but none of those seasons were particularly good for him.
What is more than likely to happen is the Steelers will deploy a similar attack to when they had Jesse James and McDonald in 2018. That year, James played 50 percent of the snaps while McDonald logged 51 percent, and both had their best years as pros. With the split likely being closer to 50-50, that means Ebron will have to do more with fewer snaps.
Now, looking at the TE position as a fantasy unit, to be a consistent starter, you likely need to be in the top 12 at points per game for your position. Over the past three years, the average points per game for the twelfth ranked TE (in PPR format) was 9.6 points per game. That certainly seems attainable for Ebron, even with his snaps likely to be split with McDonald’s.
Finally, one must look at Ebron’s ceiling to get a better idea of what his fantasy potential is. Again, looking at 2018, McDonald reeled in 50 catches as the starter, and with all the weapons this year, that seems like Ebron’s ceiling for receptions. Using his career average in yards per catch, that would break down to 50 catches for 565 yards, giving a total of 106.5 fantasy points and around 6.7 per game.
This doesn’t factor in TDs though, and frankly, this is where Ebron will make or break his 2020 fantasy year. In his career year in 2018, he logged 13 TD’s en route to his best season as a pro. While he isn’t likely to repeat that number, he is an obvious red-zone threat. That all said, he will need 8 scores based on his best-case yards projection to average 9.6 points per game. Is it possible, sure, but with the plethora of other targets, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t get there.
All in all, Ebron does not seem destined to be a top scorer at the TE position this year unless he rekindles some of that 2018 red zone magic he had. That said, he seems like a good backup and streaming option if the right matchup appears. While he is likely to be better than his current ratings (most fantasy sites have him between the 18th-20th TE prospect this year), it is doubtful he jumps into the top 12. He has upside, but he’ll likely be a TD dependent option this year in fantasy.