By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – The Detroit Lions did not take another wide receiver with their first pick in the draft. Instead, they got a tight end with wide receiver-like capabilities in North Carolina’s Eric Ebron. The choice still upset some Lions fans, who wanted Detroit to take a defensive player.
In the end, the Lions simply trusted their research. Once the nine teams before Detroit picked, Ebron remained, and he rated highest of all the remaining players.
“We let the board do the work,” Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said. “We kind of look at it and work it down to our players that we ranked them in order and sort of stay with the board and let the board kind of tell you exactly what to do. We put a lot of work into it, a lot of effort into it.
“This is not just a one- or two-day process,” Caldwell continued. “It’s a long process. It’s over a year just in terms of whittling it down to the players that we’re looking for and put them in a specific order in order to get us the best players on our team. We’re looking for playmakers, so that’ll fall sometimes in different categories.”
In 2013 Detroit faltered in the second half of the season, blowing numerous fourth-quarter leads as they lost six of their last seven games and missed the playoffs again. Lions general manager Martin Mayhew explained why Detroit did not feel a need to lean toward defense.
“I felt it was really a go-anywhere draft for us,” Mayhew said. “On defense, we were right in the middle of the pack last year in points allowed. We were 15th. Offense was 13th in points scored. I think there’s a perception there’s this huge gap between our offense and our defense. It’s not that big a gap. We’ve got some good players on defense that can make some plays for us. We felt like this guy was going to help us win football games, so we drafted him.
“At that point, he was the highest graded player,” Mayhew added. “He was the best player available for us, and there wasn’t a whole lot of debate about other players at that time.”
Unlike most franchises that picked earlier, Detroit did not use its entire 10-minute allotment to make its pick. Once the Lions got on the clock, there was not too much action as far as communication with other teams.
“We waited a couple minutes,” Mayhew said. “We always wait a few minutes to see if the phone rings. Got a couple calls, nothing big was happening there, so we decided to move on and make the pick.
“We certainly talked about moving up with other teams, we talked about moving back with other teams,” Mayhew continued. “We didn’t find a deal that made sense for us going either direction, so we stayed there at 10. So we did have conversations about moving up. We did.”
Caldwell said Ebron, who proposed to his girlfriend of two years, Brittany Rountree, at the top of the Empire State Building earlier in the day, will be in Detroit on Monday.