For the second time in franchise history – both in the last four years – the Cincinnati Bengals took a tight end in the first round, selecting Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert.
Cincinnati drafted Jermaine Gresham 21st overall in 2010, and Thursday night they made Eifert the 21st pick of the NFL Draft.
“We’re really excited to be able to pick Tyler Eifert at pick No. 21,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “We really feel he’s a player who’s going to add a lot to our football team in his first year. As a young player, he complements Jermaine and the other tight ends we have.”
The 6-foot-5, 251-pound Eifert started 34 of 38 games for the Fighting Irish, catching a school-record 140 passes for 1,840 yards and 11 touchdowns. He becomes the seventh Notre Dame tight end to be drafted in the first two rounds since 1983.
Asked what he does best, Eifert said “catching contested balls, having good hands and high-pointing the ball.”
“That’s the thing about a tight end — you’re going to have to make contested plays,” Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. “He’s proven he can do that. He has like a 35-inch vertical, so he has a great catch radius, which is important for that position because the lanes aren’t always that big, especially in the red zone.”
Most mock drafts had Eifert going well before 21, with some even projecting him as a top-10 guy. But the Fort Wayne, Ind., native said he wasn’t surprised to be around late in the first round.
“I was told all along that there is no way to tell where you’re going to go or who you’re going to go to, so I was just staying positive throughout the whole thing and trying to enjoy it,” Eifert said.
That the Bengals were the ones who took him was somewhat of a surprise.
“We all do our own mock drafts in our head, who needs the position that we are and whatnot so I was a little surprised,” he said. “(Tight ends coach Jonathan) Hayes worked me out at the combine and pro day and we’ve had a good relationship.”
The Bengals are hoping Eifert and Gresham have a great relationship as well.
“The one thing this kid has that you like about guys coming to the next level is he’s a very, very competitive person,” Hayes said. “And when you have that and you create more competition in your room, it’s just going to make everyone better.”
“I don’t think Jermaine has a lot to worry about,” Gruden said. “Jermaine is our starting tight end. Tyler is going to come in here and add another element and be a steady player for a lot of years here.”
NFL Draft Schedule
Today, 6:30 p.m.: Second and third rounds
Saturday, 12 p.m.: Fourth through seventh rounds