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COLUMN

Notre Dame star Eifert's NFL home hard to predict

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

Tight end could go to a number of teams in first round

Saturday, April 20, 2013 - 12:52 pm

It must be tough being Tyler Eifert. The NFL Draft is less than a week away and there's no telling which team will call his name.

On the other hand, Eifert is likely a first-round pick Thursday. That's a good place to be.

So where will Eifert, the former Bishop Dwenger High School and Notre Dame tight end, land? Your guess might be as good as his. Perusing the various mock drafts, his name pops up all over the place, including that team from up the road, the Chicago Bears.

Here's a look at all the teams (and their draft positions) mentioned as possible landing spots:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, No. 13

The Bucs have a lot of needs, particularly on the defensive side. But today's best NFL offenses usually include a play-making tight end with the speed and size. Eifert is 6-foot-6, 250 pounds and came out of the NFL Combine with the best combination of size and speed. Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman continues to develop, and he needs a weapon like Eifert. The question is whether Eifert would be taken this high in the draft, an unusually high spot for a tight end.

Pittsburgh Steelers, No. 17

This seems like an unusual spot given the Steelers have Heath Miller, but he underwent knee surgery so there's some doubt there. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense have long used the tight end as both a reliable short-yardage option and big-play threat. Eifert's work ethic and hard-nosed football style would certainly fit the Steelers mold. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has put Eifert to the Steelers in more than one of his mock drafts.

Chicago Bears, No. 20

This would be a bit of a surprise, given that the Bears signed Martellus Bennett, who played with the New York Giants last season. Reports out of early workouts say Bennett looks like the type of big-play tight end that could help quarterback Jay Cutler expand an offense that ranked 28th in total offense in 2012. Chicago has been outside the Top 20 in total offense in 12 of the last 13 years. So maybe new coach Marc Trestman wouldn't be adverse to another play-making tight end?

Green Bay Packers, No. 26

Jermichael Finley has one year left on his contract and he hasn't exactly seemed like a Packer for life. He has also shown a tendency toward more drops than coaches like. So it could be possible that the Packers will look for his successor to become the reliable big receiver that Aaron Rodgers can utilize while he spreads the field with speedy wide receivers.

Houston Texans, No. 27

The Texans have a solid All-Pro caliber tight end in Owen Daniels, but the depth is not tremendous. Much of the Texans' success can be attributed to the building of its defense, so it's possible Houston will look to add to quarterback Matt Schaub's options on offense.

Denver Broncos, No. 28

This is intriguing. Peyton Manning has always favored tight ends capable of blocking and pass protecting, but also able to stretch the field and run like a wide receiver. Eifert could be a taller version of Dallas Clark, who was merely one of the Manning's favorites during his Colts heyday.

Atlanta Falcons, No. 30

It's time to start looking for the next Tony Gonzalez. Eifert might be too tough to resist if he's still available at this point.

San Francisco 49ers, No. 31

The 49ers have Vernon Davis and a bunch of no-names. (Sorry Garrett Celek fans.) It seems unlikely that Eifert will be available by this point in the draft, but if he is, look for Jim Harbaugh to give Colin Kaepernick a target as big and mobile as the quarterback.

There's also a chance that the Colts, who own the No.24 pick, would be willing to trade down to a team looking to utilize that 24th pick on Eifert. If he's still on the board by the time the Colts pick, we might see some unexpected Eifert drama unfold.

Eifert may need to be patient, but his Thursday should be a rewarding one before it's over.

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