Last season, Chicago Bears tight end Kellen Davis, in what was supposed to be a breakout campaign, was awful. He dropped the second most passes amongst tight ends and his drop percentage, per Pro Football Focus, was the worst at his position.
It's clear now that Davis will never be the downfield threat many believed him to be. As a result, the Bears will have to address the tight end position this offseason. Free agency is a great place to start, as there are some quality options set to hit the open market. Martellus Bennett and Jared Cook, to name a few, would be great additions to Chicago's roster.
Yet the Bears are pressing close to the salary cap and won't have the money to spend freely on costly veteran free agents. The better option would be to grab an early round tight end in a class top heavy with talent.
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Arms: 33 inches
Hands: 9 inches
Combine40-Yard Dash: 4.68 seconds (fifth best at position)
Bench Press: 22 reps (third best)
Vertical Jump: 35.5 inches (third best)
Broad Jump: 9-11 (third best)
3-Cone Drill: 6.92 seconds (first amongst TEs)
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.32 seconds (fourth best)
As his combine numbers show, Eifert is an extremely athletic tight end. He's quick, fast and can jump, and he has sure hands. His body control for a player of his size is borderline amazing, allowing him to make plays deep down the field and in traffic. In essence, he has everything Davis does not.
As a downfield pass catcher, there were few better in the nation than Eifert the last two seasons. He uses his big frame to block out safeties and linebackers and always high-points the ball. When matched up on a smaller player, he's a nightmare on jump balls, particularly in the red zone.
He played a number of different roles with the Fighting Irish, lining up on the edge, in the backfield, at H-back, in the slot and out wide. In fact, he played more receiver than pure tight end, which is a testament to his prowess as a pass catcher.
There aren't many flaws in Eifert's game. As a sophomore, he struggled as a blocker and in his route running, yet he improved both of those areas measurably as a junior. He still tends to round off his cuts and must learn to finish blocks better but the improvement he showed from 2011 to 2012 gives confidence he can continue to develop.
Eifert has great hands but does have a tendency to let the ball get to his body instead of extending his arms for the catch. This can lead to some occasional bad drops.
As a sophomore, Eifert led all FBS tight ends with 63 catches for 803 yards, with five touchdowns. His production dipped last season due to a freshman quarterback, yet he still won the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end.
To give you an idea of how dominant Eifert was in college, consider the BCS Championship Game this past January. In a sign of considerable respect, Alabama mirrored Eifert in coverage with All-American cornerback Dee Milliner, a likely Top 10 pick in this year's draft.
His size and natural athletic ability alone will help Eifert be productive in the NFL from Day 1. If he develops and learns to run the entire route tree, he'll turn into a Pro Bowler; he's that talented.
Under new head coach Marc Trestman, it's safe to say the passing attack will be the priority regarding personnel decisions going forward. With that in mind, it would make sense for the Bears to take Eifert in the first round and fill the biggest talent vacancy at the offensive skill positions. With Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery down the sidelines, and Eifert up the seams, opposing secondaries will be forced to deal with three big-bodied, athletic pass catchers. One has to believe that is the vision Trestman has for his new offense, which would obviously coincide with that of Jay Cutler.
So if Eifert is on the board when it's Chicago's turn to pick at 20th overall on the first day of the 2013 NFL Draft, don't be surprised if he's wearing the navy and orange next season.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.