Former Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert had a little bit longer wait than expected, but eventually landed close to home. The Cincinnati Bengals selected Eifert 21st overall in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night.
Former Irish captain Tyler Eifert became the first Notre Dame tight end picked in the first round since Irv Smith in 1993.
The 2012 Mackey Award winner became the most prolific pass-catching tight end in Notre Dame history in his three seasons on the field in South Bend. He caught 140 passes for 1,840 yards and 11 touchdowns during his college career.
Pro scouts salivated over Eifert’s versatility to play as an inline blocker and split out as a 6-6, 250-pound wide receiver. Eifert, who considered entering the draft after the 2011 season, said the biggest leap he made in the past year was in his ability to block.
“For me it’s pretty much what everyone else says it’s my strength my blocking,” Eifert said following his Pro Day workout in South Bend. “I work to improve on everything, catching the ball. I’ve dropped passes before so I’m always working on my hands. I work on everything, but the one thing is my blocking just getting bigger and stronger.”
Eifert’s stock continued to rise after an impressive showing at the NFL Combine in February. He finished in the top five among tight ends in every drill in which he participated. He didn’t make any visits or hold any personal workouts for teams after Pro Day. The Bengals had apparently already seen all they needed to see.
Eifert was projected to go as high as sixth overall to the Cleveland Browns prior to Thursday night, although most experts thought he would be picked in late teens or early 20s.
The Ft. Wayne, Ind., native opted not to be in New York City live at the draft. He instead watched the event at his family’s home with a large group of friends and extended family. Eifert’s father, Greg, said the family was expecting somewhere around 100 guests Thursday night to celebrate. Eifert tweeted earlier in the day that he played a round of golf to help ease his nerves.
Eifert helped continue the strong Fighting Irish legacy at the tight end position. He is the seventh Notre Dame tight end picked in the NFL Draft since 2001. The half dozen before him were Jabari Holloway (fourth round), John Owens (fifth round), Jerome Collins (sixth round), and then Anthony Fasano, John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph — each in the second round. Eifert is the first to go in the first round since Irv Smith in 1993. Smith was picked 20th overall by the New Orleans Saints.
Check BlueandGold.com throughout the night for more coverage of Notre Dame players in the 2013 NFL Draft.