Fort Wayne native and Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert was the only player from an Indiana school, or from the state, selected in the 1st round. And he’ll get to stay close to his Hoosier roots.
The Cincinnati Bengals made Eifert the first and only tight end selected in Thursday’s opening round. Then again, on a night seemingly dedicated to linemen, a skill position player taken was a rarity. Eifert was the third skill position taken off the board, following West Virginia WR Tavon Austin and Florida State QB EJ Manuel.
Eifert joins a team that has now reached the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 1981-82. He’ll also be part of a team building with young weapons on offense.
He’ll likely work in tandem with Bengals incumbent tight end Jermaine Gresham, already a two-time Pro Bowler. Andy Dalton enters his third season having reached the playoffs in his first two years as a starter, and having thrown for over 7,000 yards in his short career. AJ Green was the team’s top selection ahead of Dalton in 2011, and former Hoosier running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be in his second year in Bengal stripes.
The former Bishop Dwenger star led Notre Dame in both receptions (50) and receiving yards (685) a season ago. Eifert leaves South Bend as the school’s all-time leader in receptions for a tight end with 140. Fittingly for the first tight end selected, Eifert was this season’s John Mackey Award winner, named after the former Colt to honor the top collegiate player at the position.
The last Indiana native to be taken in the first round was Muncie’s Ryan Kerrigan. The former Purdue star was selected with the 16th pick two seasons ago by Washington. He also joins Lafayette’s Dustin Keller as homegrown tight ends taken in the first round in the last five years.
TE’O STILL ON THE BOARD, LIKELY NOT FOR LONG
It was a first round as much about who wasn’t drafted as to those who were. Manti Te’o shared the dual spotlight for those slipping in to round two with West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.
Speculation swirled late Thursday night as Minnesota traded up to get the 29th pick that Te’o could be coming off the board at that spot. Instead, the Vikings opted to go with Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson to fill the void created by Percy Harvin’s departure.
Te’o was also a possible target of the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens at pick 32, but Baltimore opted to fill its need of replacing another defensive legend in Ed Reed when they selected Florida safety Matt Elam with the final pick of round one.
With Jacksonville and Philadelphia owning two of the first three picks of the second round, Smith could be coming off the board before Te’o. San Francisco wouldn’t appear to be in the market for a linebacker with the pick in between at 34, but after that Manti’s phone could be ringing at any time.
With Te’o slipping out of round one, Notre Dame was unable to match last year’s draft result of having two players selected in the opening round. A season ago, Michael Floyd was taken by the Arizona Cardinals with the 13th pick, then Harrison Smith landed in Minnesota at spot number 29.
ANOTHER IN-STATE AND COLLEGE STAR LIKELY TO GO SOON
East Chicago native and former Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short was believed to have an outside shot of being a first round pick. He’s still on the board after round two, and most estimates have him going sometime during the second round.
Purdue’s first player taken in last year’s draft was tackle Dennis Kelly, selected by Eagles with pick 153 in the firth found in 2012.