First Round: 21st Pick
In recent years, Notre Dame has been something of a tight end factory, sending John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph to the NFL as second-round picks and early career starters for their pro teams. Their latest tight end prospect, Tyler Eifert, has the talent to get into the first round, and maybe even the top 20.
What makes this Fighting Irish tight end prospect the best yet?
Eifert has the big frame, long arms and soft hands to be a matchup nightmare in the passing game for smaller defensive players. He is fast and quick enough to line up outside as a wide receiver and still create separation from cornerbacks, but big enough to still make the catch against them when he doesn't. His body control, routes and release off of the line are all wide receiver quality. Eifert is a clutch performer and will be a quarterback's favorite, especially in the red zone.
Eifert is a willing blocker, and he is getting better, but he is a wall-off blocker who won't be a plus as a run- or pass-blocker. He has more of an oversized wide receiver frame and can get pushed around by stronger players in routes. He isn't a supreme athlete with breakaway speed, even though he is a first-round prospect. Eifert isn't a threat make big gains after the catch.
At 6'5" and 250 pounds, with 33 1/8" arms and a 35.5" vertical, Eifert is difficult to stop "above the rim". His 4.60 40 speed is good enough to be a threat on seam routes, and his top-end quickness for a tight end (4.32 short shuttle, 6.92 three-cone) shows up when he breaks in his routes. Eifert isn't exactly a Vernon Davis-esque prototype, but he has a very, very good physical package to offer to the pros.
Eifert's hard work to add 40 pounds of muscle and become a better blocker shows his dedication to the game. He is a high-effort, smart, versatile player. There is just about zero character risk here, which makes Eifert a very safe pick in the first round.
Eifert can play anywhere from in-line tight end to split out wide. Unlike many tight ends, he doesn't just line up in the slot, he lines up at a wide receiver position with a cornerback matched up on the other side of the line of scrimmage. He is a three-down tight end, although he isn't going to be a strong blocker.
Eifert isn't exceptionally fast or explosive, but he gets up to speed very quickly out of his release from the in-line tight end position, and he has learned to fight off press coverage when lined up out wide. Eifert threatens the safety very quickly into his seam routes and has enough burst in his release to get into his routes while wasting little time.
Eifert eats up open field with his long stride and decent speed, and then creates separation with sharp and precise breaks at the top of his route. He will use his hands to fight off a combative cornerback, and he has the speed to be a downfield target on go routes. Eifert uses his hands well to fight off the jam, so he is difficult to re-route or otherwise disrupt in his route timing. He comes back to the quarterback like a wide receiver and does all of the little things to make himself more effective at getting open.
Eifert is a natural when the ball arrives, almost always plucking it out of the air with his hands. His hands are especially soft at full extension, and Eifert's ability to haul in the pass doesn't diminish when he is working the middle of the field or contested by a defender. Eifert's 9 1/8" hands are also strong, rarely giving away the reception once he gets his mitts on the ball.
While he has some excellent tools and intangibles, Eifert's instinctive behavior when the ball is arriving might be the strongest part of his game. His length and leap timing make him nearly impossible to defend on 50/50 balls. He understands how to use his body to shield a defender like a rebounder getting position in a basketball game.
Eifert's athleticism gives him the ability to rotate and adjust to errant passes, and on the whole he has a massive effective catch radius. He'll fight to hold his ground or win the spot on a contested ball, and Eifert generally figures out a way to do whatever it takes to make the grab. Even when he's not open, he's a very good target.
Run After Catch
Eifert isn't going to run away from anyone, and he doesn't have many moves after the catch in his repertoire. What he will do is run with strength and stubborn resolve after the catch. He has been known to carry a tackler on his back, and his balance gives him the ability to get yards after contact. Eifert's smooth stride and fluid athleticism also translate to good gains when he can make a catch in the open field.
We'll give him an E for effort in this category. Eifert can get to a spot and neutralize or stalemate his opponent as a run-blocker. While he won't drive his opponent downfield, Eifert can seal a hole by walling off his assignment. He can get overpowered as a pass-blocker and does not look comfortable trying to stop a blitzer. Eifert will surprise you with some fire in his blocks at times, and he is getting better every year, so he has upside here as a pro.