The two tight end set might be the new craze in the NFL, so the tight end class will be under more scrutiny than ever when we get to draft season in January. That brings up the obvious question, who is the top tight end in the 2013 draft eligible class?
The answer right now is Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame. The 6'6", 250-pound tight end filed his paperwork with the NFL and got a third-round grade back in January, according to Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports. Eifert decided to return to South Bend for his junior year and could cement his place much higher in the draft if he picks up where he left off last season.
Eifert is a tough, physical player, who can line up in the slot or as an inline tight end. He is a willing blocker, but not a dominant one. The best result he achieves in the running game is usually a stalemate, but he can move a smaller defensive back down the field when he gets leverage.
Eifert is a smart receiver who can find soft spots in between defenders and correctly read and execute option routes, although he is not a particularly tight or graceful route runner. He understands how to situate his big frame between the ball in flight and a defender.
Athletically, Eifert is not especially gifted when it comes to speed or explosiveness, but his size is rare for a player with his ball skills and toughness. Eifert has great hands catching the ball away from his body, and his toughness allows him to own the middle of the field. Eifert does not back down from safeties that try to play intimidator between the hashes.
What really separates Eifert from the pack is his play "above the rim." Eifert has outstanding body control for a tight end and can spring himself and torque his body to make tough catches at the same time, never fearing the oncoming tackler even though his ribs are left open for the big hit:
Notre Dame's quarterbacks seem to grasp that they can place the ball where no one else can get it and still make completions when they target Eifert, and he delivers. When he has an even better quarterback and supporting cast in the NFL, he'll frustrate defenses with his ability on the stratosphere.