TE Tale of the Tape: Eifert vs. Ertz
By Bill Lund
Few positions in the NFL have experienced the kind of renaissance that tight ends have in recent years. When comparing Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert and Stanford's Zach Ertz, the top two TE prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft, we have to consider the five most important characteristics scouts look for in the position the way it is played in the league today:
• Physical Attributes: Size, speed, strength, balance, agility
• Release: Ability to escape the jam, quickness, strength
• Patterns: Type of cuts (sharp or rounded), time to area, separation
• Blocking: Effort and strength
• Ball Skills: Catching ability, adjustments to balls in flight, catching in traffic
Ertz: At 6-foot-5, 249 pounds, he possesses great size for the position. He has decent length in his arms (31¾ inches) and good hand size (9¾ inches). Ran a solid 40-yard dash (4.76 seconds) at the Combine. He had a vertical jump of 30.5 inches and a broad jump of 111.0 inches. Displayed good strength with a bench press of 24 reps and has enough straight line speed to accelerate past LBs. Not sudden in his change of direction, but does create space out of his routes. Has the measurables that NFL teams covet.
Eifert: At 6-6, 256, also has a great NFL size, a tall frame and a great catch radius with arms measuring (33 1/8). Ran a strong 4.68 in the 40 at the Combine, above-average speed for a tight end. Showed very good lower body explosion in the vertical jump (35.5 inches) and the broad jump (119 inches). Bench press was a strong 22 reps. Eifert is tall, athletic and physically the most complete tight end in the draft.
Advantage: Eifert. He showed at the Combine how dynamic an athlete he is. Displays more explosive traits than Ertz. His speed and athletic ability make him the versatile TE prospect that NFL teams want to use to create mismatches. Ertz has been utilized in Stanford’s offense as a flex receiver, but Eifert’s athletic ability should translate better to becoming an effective weapon in the NFL.
Ertz: A quick starter off the line of scrimmage. Lines up in the slot, split out and in an off-set position. Has lined up in the backfield and as an H-Back to take advantage of mismatches against LBs. When flexed out, he has the ability to set up the defender with a quick stutter-step/head fake and break in opposite direction. Has shown difficulty with press coverage against big corners and athletic safeties.
Eifert: Shows good burst off the line and has above average top-end speed. From a three-point stance, is able to cleanly maneuver past a defender near the line to get into his route. Has lined up in the slot and split out. Uses his hands effectively to slip defenders off the line. Athletic enough to get a clean release against cornerbacks and utilize his size to create mismatches. Against Stanford, he matched up against a CB and caught a game-tying TD.
Advantage: Eifert. The two players are relatively equal, but Eifert has the athletic ability to match up against a corner or safety and make plays consistently.
Ertz: Runs smooth routes. Gets in and out of breaks quickly, also gets out of stem with ease. Has a good burst off the cut. Does a nice job selling his patterns, getting good depth in his routes. Shows the ability to stem defenders and finding soft spots in zone coverages. Was the go-to guy against Oregon when the QB was in trouble. He has a habit of rounding his routes on out-breaking and crossing routes. Stanford’s pro concepts should help him transition easily to the NFL.
Eifert: Runs precise routes. Can split out wide and run a receiver’s route tree. Has good quickness but can be a bit too choppy in and out of breaks. Locates downfield seams in zone and uses his frame well to box out defenders when sitting over the middle. Can stretch the middle of the field vertically, making catches over the second level of the defense, as he showed against Purdue on a few occasions. Shows fluid hips on quick breaking routes. Strong enough to battle against physical defenders and still run a good route. Has the strength to break tackles after the catch.
Advantage: Eifert. His advantage is the athleticism he shows in running the wide receiver passing tree. Ertz has worked as a split but doesn’t have the speed to be a reliable threat downfield. Eifert can create mismatches anywhere on the field.
Ertz: Shows willingness and good effort as a blocker but gets caught lunging at defenders and overextends by bending at the waist. Fights to maintain his blocks, won’t back down and battles to gain leverage. He shows initial pop but can be overpowered. Hasn’t shown the ability to be an in-line TE at NFL level. Spent a high percentage of snaps flexed out and was efficient at walling off DBs and LBs in space.
Eifert: He is a work in progress as a blocker. Gives an honest effort and is willing to block, but lacks strength and technique to sustain blocks or get much movement. Eifert does have the frame to develop into a solid blocker with coaching. Puts himself in the proper position to make the block, can wash defenders down the line of scrimmage and is athletic enough to seal the edge. Shows good awareness and positioning as a blocker in space. Still better suited to be an 'H' TE, but capable of developing at least contributing as an occasional in-line blocker.
Advantage: Even. Both have their issues in run blocking, but Eifert has the greater potential to develop into an in-line blocker in the NFL.
Ertz: Ertz displays soft hands. Showed against USC the ability to extend arms and catch on the run without breaking stride. Can open up and adjust to throws outside of his frame. Doesn't have elite leaping ability and is not consistent in coming up with defended balls when matched in a jump ball situation (which you can also see in the USC game). Catches the ball over his shoulder well and can track the deep throw. Big red zone threat has the ability to create space for himself with big frame and length, but must win jump balls more consistently. Shows very good hands most of the time but has dropped a few routine balls (see Notre Dame, 2012). Looks the ball in to his hands and puts it away quickly. Does of a good job of getting position on linebackers and shielding the ball with his body.
Eifert: Displays elite focus and body control. Uses long frame, good leaping ability and exceptional body control to establish positioning for the ball in the air. Extremely large catch radius, shows the ability to adjust to poorly thrown balls. Has the ability to snatch a ball on the run without breaking stride. Tracks the ball well and can adjust while running vertically. Shows exceptional competitiveness, concentration and hand strength when attacking the ball in a crowd. Makes tough catches in tight spaces as highlighted in his BYU game. Has been as good as any WR or TE at winning jump ball opportunities.
Advantage: Eifert. This is what really separates Eifert. He has elite ability to win jump balls and make plays snatching a ball from defenders.
Tyler Eifert. Eifert and Ertz are the class of the TE group, but only Eifert has the tools to become the next Rob Gronkowski. He shows elite ability to high point balls and win one-on-one matches in the air. Has the speed to work a number of positions as a receiving threat, making him extremely versatile and dangerous anywhere he lines up. He does need to work on his in-line blocking, but he is being drafted as a passing threat and not as a blocker. Ertz has capable tools to become a good frontline TE, but lacks the overall athleticism to be the versatile threat NFL teams are looking for.