What I like — The more I study the tight ends in this 2013 NFL draft class, the more clear it is to me that Eifert is the top tight end prospect. Physically, he’s the ideal. He’s tall, with long arms and big hands, but not so bulky as to limit his ability to work in space. In today’s NFL the role of the tight end first and foremost is as a receiver and Eifert excels. He can line up tight on the line or out wide and be equally effective. It’s interesting as I watched Notre Dame they used Eifert split wide matched up on a cornerback to take advantage of Eifert’s physical advantage. And when he’s got that edge he’s a very difficult matchup. Eifert gets off the line quickly, can use his strength and long arms to beat the jam, and runs excellent routes.
But the best part of Eifert’s game is when the ball gets there. He has the strongest hands in the entire draft draft and it shows. He extends for the football and can take the ball away from the defense. Seemed like he was constantly fighting off a defender for the football and he rarely lost. In the red zone, or on third down, Eifert is going to be a weapon. That’s not to say he isn’t a deep threat, because he understands how to manipulate the zone, work seam routes and get behind coverages.
What I don’t like — While Eifert has a complete package when it comes to the passing game, his run blocking is an area of weakness. This could impact his draft status depending on the team that wants him. He does an ok job sealing the edge on run plays, but he isn’t a finisher, and doesn’t work well blocking downfield. This is something he can work on in the pros, but as we’ve seen Eifert develop so much in other areas of his game, I’m not sure he can improve a whole lot in the NFL.
Another area that I wonder about is his deep speed. He ran a solid 40 times but with the league, coveting speed even from their tight ends, Eifert is going to be more limited. It takes him quite a few steps to get to top speed and that doesn’t give him the kind of separation that you see from some of the top tight ends in the league.
What it all means — Eifert is a fascinating prospect. He’s an exceptional receiver, especially when you consider just how poor the quarterback play he endured. Just go back and watch how many of Eifert’s catches were passes way off target and he had to use his size and athleticism to go get the football. This speaks volumes for me. Excellent body control and leaping, he can make catches that other tight ends just can’t do it. He doesn’t always get great separation, but when he doesn’t he does a great job shielding the defender from the ball and using those long arms and powerful hands to protect the football. After the catch, Eifert is good, but not great. He’s not afraid to take a hit and he always looks to get that extra yards. He might not pull away from anyone, but if he catches in the open he’ll get extra yards for sure.
As far as draft slotting, some have said Eifert is going to be a mid first round pick. While I think it is possible, I have a hard time pairing a team with a need for a tight end so great to warrant taking Eifert that soon. But toward the end of the round anything is possible. I think Eifert still has plenty of room to develop, which differs from the opinion of many pundits. His ceiling might not be quite as high as some other prospects, but he’s as NFL read as any tight end in this draft, and with so many two tight end sets prominent in the league, Eifert should be an impact type of rookie.