The John Mackey Award winner as college football’s best tight end in 2012, Tyler Eifert was the go-to option in the Notre Dame passing game. Eifert took over from Kyle Rudolph when the current Viking left South Bend; as a three-year starter for the Fighting Irish he set both career and single-season tight end receiving records. With prototypical size, speed, and strength for today’s NFL tight end, he was almost unanimously regarded as the top tight end in this year’s draft class.
Eifert has experience as an in-line (traditional) tight end, lining up in the slot or out wide, and as an H-back. He is a smooth, experienced route runner who understands how to find the soft spots in zone coverage and also knows how to gain separation from man coverage. While not possessing elite speed, Eifert is fast enough to threaten defenses down the seam as well. He is a natural receiver with excellent hands who competes for the ball and can make the difficult catches in coverage. Eifert is also a decent blocker who would need to bulk up to be effective as a true in-line tight end.
Most Eifert comparisons from scouts include the phrase “more athletic”, as in “a more athletic version of Heath Miller”. His game is much like that of Houston’s Owen Daniels, and in Cincinnati he’ll likely fill a similar “move tight end” role while Jermaine Gresham handles the more traditional in-line TE duties. History suggests the first year will be rough for Eifert, as only one tight end this millennium has scored more than four touchdowns as a rookie (Miller, six in 2005) and only one has topped 550 yards in their first NFL season (Jeremy Shockey, 894 in 2002). But it’s been three years since a team took a tight end in Round One—Gresham in 2010 was the most recent—and the position has certainly evolved. Sans Gresham Eifert’s outlook would be more promising, but between the example set by Patriots’ dynamic tight end duo and Eifert’s role as the move tight end there’s still an opportunity for him to make a splash.