Hands: 9 1/8”
Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.68
Vertical Jump: 35 1/2”
Broad Jump: 9’ 11”
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.32
Background (College Stats)
The son of a former Purdue basketball player, Eifert began to emerge as a factor in Notre Dame’s offense in 2011 when he led all FBS tight ends with 63 receptions for 803 yards as a complement to first-round receiver Michael Floyd. Eifert was not highly recruited out of high school, but ended his amateur career as a two-time finalist for the John Mackey Award (college football’s best tight end) and won it this past season despite seeing his numbers slip to 50 catches for 685 yards. Despite leaving college a year early, Eifert leaves Notre Dame with just about every school receiving record for a tight end – including catches (140) and receiving yards (1,840).
NFL Player Comp(s): Ed McCaffrey
This requires a bit of an explanation since McCaffrey was a receiver for three teams from 1991-2003. The best current player comp is probably the Carolina Panthers’ Greg Olsen, but I was less than two minutes into studying Eifert recently before my mind flashed to “Easy Ed”. Despite being 35 pounds heavier, Eifert actually has a similar body type to McCaffrey. However, the comparison stems from the fact that both players use(d) their size, grit and fearlessness to do most of their damage as a receiver.
Eifert may have no peers in his class – at tight end or receiver – when it comes to focus and body control. There also may be no pass catcher in this draft that attacks the ball in the air better than he does or shows less regard for his own physical well-being when he leaves the ground. Despite somewhat less-than-ideal hand size, Eifert helps make up for it with superior hand strength. The 2012 Mackey Award winner has a lean, long frame with above-average arm length (33 1/8”), which he uses to “box out” defenders in zone coverage. Notre Dame used him all over the field, which speaks to his versatility and ability to understand the entire offense (and not just his role in it). Eifert is a feisty competitor, which was reflected in the desire he showed when trying to power through a tackle or when he made a block for a ball-carrier down the field to prolong a big play. Eifert was plenty productive at Notre Dame despite the lack of a consistently accurate quarterback, improved dramatically over his college career and has no red flags attached to him on or off the field.
Almost every college prospect can improve their route-running ability and Eifert is no different, with his biggest issue being that he telegraphed too many of his routes. When combined with his lack of initial burst, Eifert may struggle to consistently beat man coverage in the early part of his career. While he will create big plays with his ability to win jump balls, he isn’t likely to gain many yards after the catch. Like most young tight ends, Eifert’s effort as a blocker is ahead of his effectiveness, although that is a weakness many tight ends have been able to overcome in the NFL once they add “man-muscle”, learn the proper angles and make football their full-time job. It’s the same lack of overall strength that will probably limit his snap count in his first year or two in the NFL and prevent him from getting open against some of the league’s better cover linebackers early in his career.
Although the Irish didn’t really have many other legitimate passing-game weapons to threaten Alabama’s defense in the BCS National Championship game, it was telling that Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban opted to use CB Dee Milliner against him in coverage and even more telling that Notre Dame QB Everett Golson seemingly forced the ball to him anyway. Like most of this year’s prospects, I don’t get the sense that Eifert will be that once-in-a-decade (or generation) talent that defines this draft class. However, I do think he will be a better all-around pro than last year’s top-drafted tight end, Coby Fleener. Assuming Eifert continues to show the same kind of work ethic and year-to-year improvement he displayed in college at the next level, none of his current shortcomings should be overly difficult to overcome. In a day and age where most tight ends are strictly “rocked-up receivers” or muscle-bound in-line blockers, Eifert is the exception and projects a player who should eventually excel at receiving and blocking. While it is important to note that the Golden Domer isn’t likely to become the next Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski or Tony Gonzalez, Eifert could easily evolve into a top 10 player at his position and make multiple Pro Bowls in the right system with a quarterback who learns to trust his ability to make the contested catch.