FORT WAYNE – Mel Kiper Jr., a NFL draft analyst for ESPN, can see a college tight end rivalry continuing in the NFL.
On Wednesday, Kiper projected Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, a former Bishop Dwenger standout, to be selected by the Chicago Bears with the 20th overall pick, and he had Stanford tight end Zach Ertz going to the Green Bay Packers with the 26th selection in the NFL draft, which runs April 25-27.
Ironically, I’ve got them both in the same division if Eifert does go to Chicago and Ertz goes to Green Bay, they will be rivals in the same division, Kiper said during a Wednesday teleconference. Both are, I think solidly, locked into being first-round draft picks.
The prospect of Eifert and Ertz continuing their careers in the NFC North would extend the two tight ends’ yearly meeting when Notre Dame and Stanford played each season to a twice-a-year meeting in the NFL.
While there is still time for the tight ends’ draft projections to shift after the combine Feb. 20-24 in Indianapolis and the players’ pro days at their universities, Kiper said there is little difference between the top players at their positions in this year’s draft.
Eifert, a 6-foot-6, 251-pounder, left as Notre Dame’s all-time leader in receptions (140) and yards (1,840) by a tight end. He had 11 touchdowns with the Irish.
Eifert was the Irish’s leading receiver this season with 50 catches for 685 yards with four touchdowns, averaging 13.7 yards per catch and 52.7 yards per game. He was named the John Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end.
Ertz, a 6-6, 252-pounder, was the Cardinal’s leading receiver with 69 receptions for 898 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged 13 yards per catch and 64.1 yards per game.
Ertz had 109 receptions for 1,373 yards with 15 touchdowns in three seasons with Stanford after not playing as a freshman.
Kiper has Eifert rated as the 15th-best prospect in the draft and Ertz at No. 18.
You are splitting hairs there, Kiper said of comparing the tight ends. Both have the kind of size, the kind of body control to make the acrobatic catches, the throws that aren’t precise and accurate, they can adjust to very easily. We saw that time and again. They catch the ball with their hands. They know when to body catch. They are just very smart receivers. They’re very experienced catching the ball. You can flex them out wide.
I thought Eifert’s blocking improved dramatically this year. Ertz is the kind of guy, you saw him throughout his career be a key entity in that pass offense. I think both are very, very good.
Notes: Notre Dame center Braxston Cave will play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala. Safety Zeke Motta will play for the West in the East-West Shrine Game on Saturday in St. Petersburg, Fla. Right guard Mike Golic Jr. and receiver Robby Toma will play for the Stars team in the RAYCOMCollege Football All-Star Classic on Saturday.