Apr 26, 2013, 3:03 AM EDT
Notre Dame’s record-setting tight end Tyler Eifert was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 21st pick in the NFL Draft’s first round. He was the first tight end selected in the draft and is the 64th former Irish player to be taken in the first round.
It’s the second time in two seasons that the Irish have had a skill position player taken in the first round, with the Arizona Cardinals selecting Michael Floyd in last year’s first round. Both athletes made the difficult decision to delay entering the draft and return for their senior seasons.
“This is such an exciting time for Tyler and his family,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. “He was faced with a difficult decision following his junior season whether or not to return to school. Tyler returned for his senior season and that decision was rewarded today. He proved to be the best tight end in college football, solidified himself as a first-round draft pick and, most importantly, earned his degree from the University of Notre Dame.”
Eifert is an interesting fit in the Bengals offense. Already equipped with a two-time Pro Bowler in Jermaine Gresham, both Eifert and Gresham were selected 21st in the draft, just three years apart. Together they’ll give quarterback Andy Dalton another weapon in the passing game, to compliment breakout star A.J. Green.
“It’s a great deal. It’s an interesting deal,” Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden told Bengals.com. “The thing about it is if we throw the ball effectively out of it and they want to put an extra (defensive back) in there, we can run the ball because we’ve got (bigger) people in there.”
It’s a system that was employed by the Irish last season and put to good use. Now the Bengals will have Gresham, Eifert, veteran Alex Smith and former Georgia star Orson Charles at the position.
It wasn’t all good news for the Irish at the NFL Draft, as Eifert’s All-American teammate, Manti Te’o, didn’t hear his name called Thursday night. Te’o will likely come off the board sometime early in the second round.