There are a number of schools notably adept at producing NFL-caliber tight ends, but the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have to sit at the top of that list.
Active NFL tight ends with Irish roots include Anthony Fasano, John Carlson and most recently, Kyle Rudolph. And though none of those players are necessarily considered the best at their position, all three are capable, reliable starters (or was in Carlson's case).
For the Falcons, the need to get younger at tight end is something fairly self-apparent.
Though his on-field performance may indicate otherwise, Tony Gonzalez is not immortal. The Falcons are vigorously campaigning for his return, as they should. But will Gonzalez come back?
If not, replacing the most consistent pass-catcher in the history of the game, a guy who made 93 receptions for 930 yards at age 36, is not easy. It could be a harsh reality to face in 2013.
On that note, I think it's high time we finally discuss a Notre Dame player that's not involved with fake friends of the female variety. I don't even like catfish.
School: Notre Dame
Projection: 1st round
Measurables: 6'6, 251 pounds
NFL Comparison: Kyle Rudolph
Stats (2012): 50 receptions, 685 yards, 4 TD (averaged 13.7 YPC)
Why He'll Work: Eifert was an integral part of what was a near-legendary season for the Irish, and is the near-consensus best tight end in this year's draft class for good reason.
He has the size and frame you look for in an elite tight end, with adequate down-field speed to create the mismatches on linebackers and safeties teams try to create at the NFL level.
He has great hands, of course, and his highlight reel is full of jaw-dropping catches in traffic that remind me of Gonzalez. Eifert also runs some very crisp, smooth routes. Like Gonzalez, the Irish also relied on his ability to line up in the slot or out wide out of shotgun, as well.
More impressive this season, however, was Eifert's improvements as a blocker, both at the line of scrimmage and in the open field. His technique improved, and he has the size (250 lbs.) to hold his own early on at the next level.
Most importantly for the Falcons, Eifert would be an immediate solution to their tight end needs. He is the type of player you can plug into your lineup and start from day one with minimal growing pains, especially given Notre Dame's track record of producing NFL-ready tight ends.
He is well-rounded and sure-handed, as reliable of a third-down target that you might find in this year's draft class. And though no player could ever replace the experience and consistency Gonzalez brings to the table, Eifert could make his potential absence a little less obvious.
Why He Won't Work: The biggest knock against Eifert is that he better fits the mold of a traditional tight end, like Heath Miller of the Steelers, than your flashy new-age guys like Jimmy Graham and Aaron Hernandez. In other words, he's not the fastest tight end out there.
I don't see this being an issue for the Falcons, but it's also one less thing opposing defenses would have to worry about. Gonzalez excelled without displaying "elite" speed during his time in Atlanta, but was also one of the savviest veteran receivers I've ever witnessed. There were so many subtleties of Gonzalez's game that Eifert won't be able to duplicate (at least not as a rookie).
The other issue, and the question Thomas Dimitroff must constantly ask himself, would be "is Eifert the best player available at the 30th overall pick?"
Like Lacy, I'm not so sure he fits that bill. Zach Ertz out of Stanford is another talented tight end who could be there in the second round. Cincinnati product Travis Kelce should also be in the mix for Atlanta. It's a deep group at the position this year, meaning it's far from Eifert-or-bust when looking for a tight end.
To be honest, it is not Atlanta's offense that worries me in 2013. Stay tuned for more first-round possibilities for the Falcons.
Tyler Eifert 2012 Highlights ᴴᴰ (via ThatHighlightChannel)