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Eifert’s blocking gives him edge

NFL Network analyst grades Irish TE over others

– Three tight ends are clustered together at the top of their position as the NFL draft draws closer.

But before either Bishop Dwenger graduate Tyler Eifert, 6-foot-5, 250-pounder from Notre Dame; Zach Ertz, a 6-5, 249-pounder from Stanford; or Gavin Escobar, a 6-6, 254-pounder from San Diego State, hear his name called at the April 25-27 draft, they will show teams some of their abilities at the combine.

Eifert, Ertz and Escobar are three of the 19 tight ends at Lucas Oil Stadium for the combine that runs through Tuesday. The tight ends will go through on-field workouts Saturday.

“I want to be the best at all the drills,” Ertz said Thursday. “Tyler Eifert, Gavin Escobar, some of those guys are very good football players. I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to go against them in some of the drills.”

Eifert, who was not available for interviews at the combine Thursday, and Ertz have been the two tight ends projected to possibly be selected in the first round.

Eifert won this season’s John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end, after catching 44 passes for 624 yards with four touchdowns in the regular season. He added six receptions for 61 yards in the Irish’s 42-14 loss to Alabama in the BCS championship game Jan. 7.

Eifert left Notre Dame as the school’s all-time leader in receptions (140) and receiving yards (1,840) by a tight end. He had 11 career touchdowns.

Ertz led Stanford with 69 receptions for 898 yard and six touchdowns this season, and while his statistics were better this season than Eifert’s, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said he would take the Notre Dame and Dwenger product over the former Cardinal.

“I thought Eifert did a better job blocking this year than he did in past years and a little better job than Ertz did, who is more of a move guy,” said Mayock, who is also the color analyst for Notre Dame’s home games on NBC. “If you asked me to rank them today, it would be Eifert first because I could line him up in-line. Even though he is not a stone killer, trust me, he’s not, but he can at least play leverage and block in-line. However, both of their strengths are in down the field and catching the football.”

Eifert is one of eight former Notre Dame players at the combine along with linebacker Manti Te’o, center Braxston Cave, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, safeties Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter and running backs Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood.

Cave, who is on the same schedule as Eifert, said it is nice to have so many teammates around.

“I’ve been with Eifert all day, it’s good to see some familiar faces,” Cave said.

Cave said he understands that Te’o will be one of the main stories at the combine since the Irish All-American was revealed to be the victim of a hoax that made him believe he had a relationship with a woman who never existed.

“That’s been the spotlight,” Cave said. “It will be nice when it all passes over. It is a tough time for him, but he’s a strong kid. He will get through it.”

As for himself, Cave said he isn’t paying attention to where he is projected in the draft and will concentrate on doing his best in workouts.

“I’ve put my work in the last four or five years, it’s all on film,” Cave said. “I hope to come here and show my athletic ability.”

tkrausz@jg.net

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