One former Notre Dame football player has a new NFL home, but Notre Dame's most high-profile former player will have to wait at least another day to find out his new address. Tyler Eifert went with the No. 21 pick to the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft Thursday night, but 32 first round picks were made without Manti Te'o's name being called.
Eifert becomes the first Notre Dame tight end selected in the first round since Irv Smith in 1993. He is also the first Irish player to be selected by Cincinnati since 2007 when both Dan Santucci and Chinedum Ndukwe went to the Bengals.
"I've seen him play fullback, H-back they line him up at wide receiver," ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said after Eifert was selected. "He's smart, he's very versatile, he's got some suddenness, excellent body control, this kid has a 35-inch vertical jump, and his 6.92 three-cone (drill) was the best at the combine. I love the way he goes and gets the ball in a crowd."
Eifert, who won the John Mackey Award for his play at tight end in 2012, is Notre Dame's all-time top receiving tight end after finishing his career with 140 catches for 1,840 yards and 11 touchdowns. He reeled-in 50 catches for 685 yards with four touchdowns in 2012.
Many mock drafts had Eifert going to the Chicago Bears with the No. 20 overall pick in the first round, but the Bears took Oregon guard Kyle Long with that pick instead of the former Fighting Irish tight end.
The Bengals now have a pair of legitimate receiving targets at tight end. Eifert will team with two-time Pro Bowler Jermaine Gresham in offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's offense. Coincidentally, Gresham was the No. 21 overall pick in the 2010 draft. Gresham has totaled 113 receptions and nine touchdowns over the last two seasons.
"I'm shocked Chicago didn't take him," said ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr.
The Minnesota Vikings were predicted by most mock drafts to be the first round landing spot for Te'o with either the No. 23 or No. 25 selection. Instead the Vikings took Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes in those respective slots.
Minnesota traded second, third, fourth, and seventh round draft picks to the Patriots to claim the No. 29 pick and many thought they would use it to draft Te'o. Instead the Vikings took University of Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
"Tremendous production in three successive years, "Kiper said after Te'o failed to be drafted in the first round. "Manti (is the number) 17 player on my big board still available...the fact that Te'o is still there and the Minnesota Vikings who desperately need a middle linebacker passed on him three times."
A total of 18 defensive players were drafted in the first round Thursday ahead of Te'o, including Georgia inside linebacker Alec Ogletree at No. 30 by the St. Louis Rams.