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COLUMN

Notre Dame's Eifert raises stock at combine

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For more on the NFL, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at www.twitter.com/reggiehayes1

The Fort Wayne native delivers the goods on and off the field

Monday, February 25, 2013 - 12:01 am

INDIANAPOLIS – Deciphering Tyler Eifert's NFL prospects requires no reading between the lines.

Eifert was the “other” Notre Dame star in Indianapolis this weekend, the one not named Manti Te'o, the one who didn't have to answer anything other than football questions. Those questions were simple ones: Are you fast enough? Strong enough? Quick enough?

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Yes!!

A lot of players helped their stock with the NFL over the weekend, including Te'o, who did a solid job in handling the scrutiny over the tiresome girlfriend hoax controversy. Barring unforeseen developments, Te'o might finally be moving on.

But no player – forget being specific to Notre Dame – helped his stock more than Eifert. He was already ranked the No.1 tight end by many recruiting analysts and mock drafts. But there was debate over whether Stanford's Zach Ertz or San Diego State's Gavin Escobar might push him for that status.

The fight is for No.2 tight end now.

Simply put, Eifert aced the combine.

The Bishop Dwenger High School alum started his weekend with media interviews, where he was open, confident and much more talkative than has been his laid-back nature. He wasn't Deion Sanders or “Leon Sandcastle.” But he was likable and engaging.

Then came the on-field tests.

Eifert finished in the top two in four of the seven drills. He was first in the three-cone drill, which shows cutting/quickness. He was second in the vertical leap, broad jump and 60-yard shuttle. That's dexterity and agility. He was third in the 20-yard shuttle, third in the bench press and fourth in the 40-yard dash. His 40 time of 4.68 seconds was more than solid enough.

It's more subjective to measure Eifert's performance in route-running and pass catching, but he appeared to be smooth and efficient in every area.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said Eifert “separated” himself from the tight end field.

They don't don pads during the combine, so there was no way to measure the other aspect of Eifert's game – his blocking.

He placed an emphasis on the fact he has worked on that part of his game. Eifert measured 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, which is just about the optimum size NFL teams are seeking.

“I've spent lot of time working on blocking – little things, footwork, things like that,” Eifert said. “I'm better, but I'm still not where I want to be. There's a lot of room for improvement, but I've made a conscious effort to get better and I think I am.”

Eifert has been working out at IMG in Bradenton, Fla., the same training ground for Te'o and other big names in the draft. Many are predicting that two or three tight ends could go in the first round of the April 25-27 draft, signifying the importance of the position in today's offenses.

Eifert talked with a number of teams during the combine, including the Eagles, Bengals and Texans. The Eagles have the No.4 spot, which is probably higher than Eifert will go. The Bengals are No.21 and the Texans No. 27, which might be too low for Eifert.

The Dolphins (12), Rams (16) and Bears (20) could be a landing spot.

Eifert's success at the combine revealed a player who has prepared well mentally and physically for this moment. Like his shorter-cropped hair, Eifert's attitude is all business.

He said he talked with former Notre Dame tight ends Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson and Anthony Fasano about the combine and preparation for this next step of his football career.

“They told me to enjoy it,” he said. “It's going to be long and it's going to wear on your body and mind. Just enjoy it while you're here. You're never going to get this back so make the most of it.”

The combine is an audition that intimidates some and inspires others. Those who arrive with the right mindset always do the best.

“At the end of the day you have a decision to make on how much work you put in and how you handle yourself on a day-to-day basis.”

Assuming his private interviews matched his public performances, Eifert made the most of his time at the combine. It should pay off, literally, after draft day.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com