Archive for the ‘Tight End’ Category

One of the major storylines coming out of Indianapolis after the first day of the NFL combine was the “friendly” competition that has begun between Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, and the 6’5” tight end out of Stanford, Zach Ertz. Both impressed today in drills, going back and forth, both coming away with individual victories. Zach Ertz is a forceful looking human being; but I’m not sure if that translates into being a good tight end in the NFL.

To put it quite simply, Ertz did absolutely nothing to impress me on film. He is not great at running routes, his hands are extremely inconsistent, and he does nothing to create separation. Ertz was the favorite target for the Stanford Cardinal this past season, but I don’t think you would guess that by his numbers. Ertz had just 62 catches for 898 yards and just 6 touchdowns in 2012, not mind-blowing stats by any means. To be fair, those stats were actually far better than Tyler Eifert’s, but I feel that I saw Eifert make far more big plays (and tougher plays) than Ertz did.

One of the most frustrating things about Ertz was his lack of presence in the redzone. Someone of his size and athleticism needs to be a bigger threat when inside the 20-yard line. The tight end has become a big part of an NFL offense mainly for their use in goal line situations; Ertz needs to work on becoming more of a threat in those scenarios if he wants to be a great NFL player.

Tight end is a very difficult position to play; you need to be able to block like an offensive tackle and catch like a wide receiver. Unfortunately, Ertz also fails to impress in the former. Frankly, Ertz seems like a liability in the blocking game. He doesn’t seem to have the strength or the proper technique that is needed to be a good in-line blocker. If Ertz gets taken by a team that doesn’t have an athletic QB who can avoid outside pressure, he might get that QB hurt if he is forced to play a significant amount.

Ertz certainly did make a lot of key plays for the Cardinal during his time in Stanford, but his inconsistency is what bothers me. On several occasions during my time watching his film, I would see him make a spectacular grab, only to follow it up by dropping a wide-open pass in the middle of the field.  There were even problems I saw on those plays that he did make. On more than one play, I saw him commit what I would consider offensive pass interference to gain some separation and it was never called. I think that if he tries to pull something like that at the next level, he will quickly realize it won’t fly.

Zach Ertz is a great athlete and I honestly think he has a lot of potential. The problem is I’m not sure if he is going to be able to achieve that potential in the NFL. He doesn’t have out of this world hands, he is far from a great blocker, and he is extremely inconsistent. Personally, I wouldn’t take Ertz before even the middle of the second round, and even then I would be a little bit concerned. Ertz could thrive if he is put in the right situation with the right QB. The Giants pick at 19, and while I think that might be the perfect situation for him, 19 is far too high for me. If the Giants were willing to wait, picking him in the second, if he were still around, that would be a pretty smart move for them.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @bill_slane

 

Highlights: 

By Jeff Vinton, Blogger/Editor, On the Clock

Offensive lineman Terron Armstead of Arkansas-Pine Bluff gets into his stance before running a NFL Scouting Combine offensive lineman record 4.72 seconds in the 40-yard dash this morning.

Offensive lineman Terron Armstead of Arkansas-Pine Bluff gets into his stance before running a NFL Scouting Combine offensive lineman record 4.72 seconds in the 40-yard dash this morning. (Picture courtesy of atlantafalcons.com)

The NFL Scouting Combine began today with groups one through three, which consisted of offensive linemen, tight ends, and special teams players, taking the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The primary story to come from the performances today was that of 305-pound Arkansas-Pine Bluff offensive lineman Terron Armstead in the 40-yard dash. Armstead, the second lineman to run the 40 this morning, ran a blistering time of 4.71 seconds. To put that time into perspective, last year’s top performer for offensive linemen in the 40 (Donald Stephenson, Oklahoma) ran a 4.94, the average time for offensive lineman today was a 5.23 and top prospect Luke Joeckel from Texas A&M ran a 5.30. Armstead’s time is the new record for offensive lineman at the Combine.

Armstead had already begun to shoot up draft boards because of his performance at the East-West Shrine Game last month. His 40 time, along with his 31 reps in the bench press, vertical jump of 34.5 inches and his broad jump of 112 inches will no doubt help make him rise up draft boards even more.

Other top performers on the day were Stanford’s Zach Ertz and Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, the consensus top two tight ends in this year’s draft class.

There has been much coverage by the media over these two, who are battling to become the top tight end taken in the Draft on April 25. And battle they did today, as they interchanged spots in the top performers group through the various drills. Eifert bested Ertz in the 40-yard dash with times of 4.68 seconds and 4.76 seconds respectively. Ertz toppled Eifert in the bench press test by two reps, 24-22. Eifert came back and beat Ertz by five inches in the vertical jump, 35.5-30.5. That trend continued in the broad jump as Eifert out leaped Ertz 119 inches-111 inches. Analysts from NFL Network said that Ertz looked more natural catching the ball, so the battle lives on.

A story from off the field was also a large story during the first day of the Combine.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o took to the podium at 2:15 p.m. EST, his first press conference since the Lennay Kekua incident and his first public appearance since his interview with Katie Couric. Te’o, whose press conference was called “a zoo” in a tweet by Miami Dolphins beat writer Ben Volin, was asked both questions about the incident and general football questions.

When asked if NFL teams had talked about the incident with him, Te’o said, “They all talked to me about it.”

Te’o also made it clear that he is done talking about the incident, first reported in January by Deadspin.com, and that he is moving on and focusing on football.

The NFL Scouting Combine consists of 11 groups each holding certain positions that take the field for drills over the course of four days. Group one has kickers, special teamers, and some offensive linemen. Group two is all offensive linemen, and group three is the tight ends. Groups four and five consist of quarterbacks and wide receivers, and the running backs are in group six. Groups seven and eight consist of defensive linemen and group nine has the linebackers. Groups 10 and 11 hold the defensive backs.

Tomorrow is the skill position day with groups four, five and six taking the field to participate in the various drills and impress NFL Scouts. Drills will begin at 9 a.m.

Coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine will continue through Tuesday, along with daily player previews on On the Clock: Your NFL Draft Destination.

Tyler Eifert (80) goes up and catches the ball over Stanford defenders Devon Carrington (5) and Terrence Brown (6) at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN on Oct. 13, 2012. The Irish beat the Cardinal on a goal line stand 20-13 in OT.

Tyler Eifert (80) goes up and catches the ball over Stanford defenders Devon Carrington (5) and Terrence Brown (6) at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN on Oct. 13, 2012. The Irish beat the Cardinal on a goal line stand 20-13 in OT.

I have to admit. Trying to evaluate any Notre Dame player is hard for me. I’ve grown up as a Notre Dame fan, idolizing the players who wear the golden domes every Saturday during the fall. So this is actually one of the harder previews I’ve done thus far. But, oh well. Here goes. Tyler Eifert (6′ 6″, 251 lbs.), the Mackey Award winner for best tight end in the country in 2012, caught 140 passes for 1840 yards and 11 touchdowns in his career at South Bend, with 50 of those catches, 685 of those yards and 4 of those touchdowns coming during Notre Dame’s 12-1 season. Various sources have either him or Stanford’s Zach Ertz as the top tight end in this year’s draft. The question that remains is, will he be a good NFL tight end?

I’ll try to answer that by evaluating Eifert on these categories: Agility, Pass Blocking, Run Blocking, Route Running, Hands, Speed, Size, Release, Run after the catch, and Health.

AGILITY: 

Tyler Eifert has very good agility. In the Purdue video, there was a pass play where he had to change directions and completely lost the guy who was covering him because of how quick his feet were and how loose his hips were (4:18). Eifert definitely possesses the ability to change direction as a runner and route runner. On his pass blocking, his agility could be a little bit quicker, but it’s not bad and reps in practice can definitely help change that. 8.5/10.0

PASS BLOCKING: 

Due to the fact the Notre Dame really liked to line Eifert out wide, I really only saw him pass block once on the line (5:24 Purdue). That block was pretty good. Held off a defensive end long enough for Everett Golson read the defense scramble a bit and throw the ball away once he realized that no one was open. 8.0/10.0

RUN BLOCKING:

I think that Eifert is a solid run blocker. In the Purdue tape at 5:09, Eifert pancakes a Purdue defender (either a corner or a safety, I can’t tell but I think it’s a corner) on a run play. He is very technically sound both on the line and when he is lined up wide. Gets low, gets his hands inside, and drives linebackers and DBs away from whoever has the ball. There are times when a backer can rip through him, or he can get juked by a DB pursuing the ball carrier. In the NFL, Eifert looks like he will let defensive ends pull him down and he looks like he will have a tough time getting his reach blocks against quicker ends. Stronger linebackers rip through his blocks now and will continue to do so in the NFL. He just needs to use his hands more and more effectively. At 1:31 in the BYU tape, Eifert pancakes BYU LB Spencer Hadley. If he can do that all the time in the NFL, he’ll be a great run blocker. 8.25/10.00

ROUTE RUNNING: 

Eifert is technically sound when running his routes. As I mentioned in the agility section, he can turn direction on a dime, so any slant, post, or out route is good for him. I really like Eifert as a route runner. This is one of his greatest assets, so he should use it to his advantage. 9.0/10.0

HANDS:

Eifert has GREAT hands. Best example from the Purdue game is at 4:38. He catches the ball while on top of a linebacker and holds on to the ball as he falls to the turf inside the Purdue 5. He also almost had a touchdown over double coverage (corner and linebacker) earlier (at 2:45) but the ball got knocked out of his hands right before he hit the ground. At 1:40 of BYU game has to go up and catch the ball at it’s highest point, and secures it with his hands. He sometimes uses his body to catch the ball, which is not good, but usually has great hands. 9.0/10.0

SPEED:

Eifert runs a 4.80 40 and in pads he can out run pretty much any linebacker. He can’t out run many DBs, but his size gives him advantages over them. He has a good burst off of the line. 8.5/10.0

SIZE:

At 6′ 6″, 251 lbs., there isn’t much not to like about his size. He can get above just about any defensive player that might cover him and he has the size to be a great blocker. Now he just has to put that size to use in the pros. 9.0/10.0

RELEASE:

As I said in speed, Eifert comes off of the line very well with a huge burst of speed. Not the greatest at disengaging from pass coverage,  he can get tied up with DBs and miss passes because of it. But overall, he has a good release. 8.5/10.0

RUN AFTER THE CATCH:

As a tight end, Eifert’s not the greatest at running after the catch. He’s not going to out run a DB, but he can break tackles and use his agility to juke defenders and get a few extra yards. He’s very strong and that can be seen in his stiff arms and when he breaks tackles. 8.5/10.0

HEALTH:

Never injured that I can find. Great sign for his NFL future. 10.0/10.0

OVERALL:

Eifert gets an overall rating of 8.73/10.00 from me. Eifert is strong, fast, has great hands, and has ton of potential as a blocker. I haven’t seen much of Zach Ertz, but I believe that Eifert won the Mackey Award for a reason over Ertz and is the top TE in the 2013 Draft. Not many teams have great tight ends (New England and Baltimore being exceptions to that), so where exactly he will go is a hard thing to predict. Minnesota is definitely out, they just picked Notre Dame’s last great tight end, Kyle Rudolph in the 2011 Draft. And as I look through the draft order, the only two teams that I see that will be thinking about drafting a tight end will be Chicago and Atlanta. The Bears haven’t had a good TE in years, and let’s face it. Tony Gonzalez’s career is rapidly coming to a close and the Falcons need to find his replacement. I’m not sure that the Bears will be looking for a TE in the first round, so look for Eifert to head south to Atlanta and join the Falcons. He couldn’t have a better mentor than Gonzalez.

HIGHLIGHTS:

Let me know what you think and follow me on Twitter! @J_Vinton52

Next, I’ll be previewing WR Keenan Allen, California!