NFL Draft 2013: Tyler Eifert vs. Zach Ertz Tale of the Tape

Ben PhillisContributor IIIApril 5, 2013

NFL Draft 2013: Tyler Eifert vs. Zach Ertz Tale of the Tape

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    Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz are the top-two tight ends in the 2013 NFL draft class. Initially, they seem like carbon copies of each other.

    ESPN lists Eifert as 6’6”, 250 pounds. Ertz is listed as 6’6”, 249 pounds. They have incredibly similar skill sets; sure-handed receivers who are decent blockers with room to improve.

    Upon further inspection, there are nuances that set Notre Dame’s Eifert apart as the better prospect.

    Many NFL mock drafts have Eifert going higher than Ertz (ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. & Todd McShay [subscription required] both have Eifert projected as a first-rounder and Ertz as a high second-rounder), but the argument for Eifert is not yet hackneyed. Though he is graded 1.1 points higher than Ertz on NFL.com, it would not be out of the question for a team to draft the Stanford tight end higher. Ertz posted impressive receiving totals (898 yards and six touchdowns) in his first season out of Coby Fleener’s shadow.

    Even considering Ertz’s great junior season, Eifert is still the smarter pick. The following are reasons why Tyler Eifert’s game will translate better from college to the pros.

Speed

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    When it comes to measurable speed, Eifert is faster and more agile. Not by much, but enough to be significant. Eifert’s official 40 time at the combine was 4.68, while Ertz’s was 4.76. Eifert also bested Ertz in the three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle.

    While the differences seem negligible, Eifert consistently proved he has a little more burst than Ertz. NFL teams value that more than ever at the tight end position.

    One of the knocks on Ertz, according to NFL.com, is his straight-line speed. Eifert doesn’t have elite speed either, but he has the edge on Ertz.

Route-Running

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    What Ertz lacks in speed he makes up for in route-running.

    Ertz actually runs better routes than Eifert. Though he doesn’t have great speed, in his highlight tape you see him catching the ball without a defender near him most of the time. By contrast, Eifert’s highlights (found on the next slide) are mostly of him making spectacular catches while defended closely.

    Ertz is clean when he comes out of his break. Running a quality route gets him separation from quicker defenders. Eifert is slower in this department, and it allows defenders to stick with him throughout the route.

    The only upside is that NFL.com’s profile of Eifert claims he has shown “much improvement” over his college career in route-running. His ability to learn and grow is vital.

    If NFL coaching can improve Eifert’s routes, which it almost surely will, he becomes far more dangerous than Ertz.

Catching

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    This is one area where Eifert easily beats Ertz.

    Ertz is not a bad receiver, but Eifert is simply a spectacular one. In Eifert’s highlights, he shows the ability to consistently catch the ball while being harassed by defenders.

    Eifert’s ability to catch the ball in traffic is aided by his vertical jump. Eifert leaped 35.5 inches off the ground at the combine. Ertz jumped 30.5 inches.

    To accompany his superb jumping ability, Eifert is sure-handed. Second Round Stats compared Eifert and Ertz in drops, finding that Ertz dropped 10.68 percent of passes thrown his way to Eifert’s 5.26 percent.

    Eifert is better at catching the ball in traffic and drops the ball 50 percent as much as Ertz. He’s the hands-down winner in this category.

Blocking

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    The two tight ends have similar builds, but Ertz is actually a little stronger than Eifert.

    Ertz put up 225 pounds 24 times, while Eifert had 22 bench press reps. Similar to measures of their speed, the difference is slight.

    Even if you give Ertz a slight advantage in strength, neither player is an outstanding blocker. Ertz's NFL.com profile critiques several aspects of his blocking, including consistency and ability to get leverage. Both players are decent and have plenty of room for improvement in the NFL. Either can pancake smaller defenders but they will struggle with professional defensive ends at first.

    Eifert and Ertz will both benefit from NFL coaching, but neither is going to be drafted for their blocking. If they were, Ertz would get a slight edge over the lean Eifert. Since neither will be a huge liability in blocking, this category is effectively a wash.

Matchup Problems

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    Tight ends in the NFL today are used to create matchup problems. The days of tight ends functioning more like offensive linemen are over.

    That being said, which player can create more matchup problems in the passing game?

    This is essentially a combination of all of the skills (except blocking) that have been discussed. Eifert is faster, jumps higher, and catches the ball more reliably. When it comes to game planning, defenses will fear Eifert far more.

    Neither player has the speed to become Vernon Davis and be unstoppable in stretches. They both have the size to beat anyone on the defensive end for a jump ball though. Eifert’s athleticism and hands make him a better overall receiver than Ertz.

    If Eifert refines his route-running, he will undoubtedly become the better NFL tight end.

     

    *All combine statistics provided by NFL.com.