TE has become a glamor position, but Marc Trestman says Bears aren’t needy
BY ADAM L. JAHNS email@example.com February 22, 2013 9:32PM
EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 17: Tight end Zach Ertz #86 of the Stanford Cardinal runs away from linebacker Boseko Lokombo #25 of the Oregon Ducks with a pass reception in the third quarter of the game at Autzen Stadium on November 17, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon. Stanford won the game 17-14 in overtime. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
A closer look at the top tight ends in the 2013 draft class:
TYLER EIFERT, Notre Dame, jr., 6-5, 250 pounds
College career: 134 receptions, 1,779 yards, 11 TDs, 13.3 yards per catch.
Quote: ‘‘[My strengths are] my ability to catch the ball in traffic, make contested catches, get down the field and create mismatches, understand an offense [and] being able to be moved around in different positions.’’
ZACH ERTZ, Stanford,
jr., 6-6, 252 pounds
College career: 109 receptions, 1,373 yards, 15 TDs, 12.6 yards per catch.
Quote: ‘‘At Stanford, we were a run-first offense. We started with the power-running game, and I took a lot of pride in my run-blocking. As a receiver, that stuff kind of came more naturally.’’
Updated: March 24, 2013 6:14AM
INDIANAPOLIS — Five years in the Canadian Football League, where the tight end is virtually nonexistent, doesn’t mean Bears coach Marc Trestman is unfamiliar with the ascendance of the position in the NFL.
“Teams are just trying to maximize the tight end in different ways,” Trestman said during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. “And [the position] certainly has a place in football.”
But Trestman won’t call adding a big, athletic tight end who’s more of receiver than a blocker a cure-all for the Bears’ offense. In the offense he’s devising, Trestman said a tight end isn’t “an entire need.”
“The offense is set up to where we can put people in different places, and they can take on that role,” Trestman said. “It wouldn’t matter whether we had three tight ends, four tight ends, four wide [with] one tight end. We feel like we want to get the best players on the field to maximize what we can do athletically, but also put players in positions where we can create matchups and opportunities.
“We can do that with a number of different personnel groupings. The tight-end groupings are certainly one of them, but they’re not a panacea for the offense. They don’t have to be an entire need. But to have different body types certainly helps offenses.”
Still, that won’t prevent the Bears from looking at tight ends Zach Ertz (Stanford) and Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame) at the combine.
The Bears have ranked last in receptions by tight ends the last two seasons, making an upgrade via the draft or free agency a real possibility. Ertz and Eifert are aware that teams such as the Bears might be interested in them, especially with how tight ends are changing offenses and burning defenses these days.
It’s possible that Ertz and Eifert — the only tight ends projected to go in the first round — will be available when the Bears step to the podium with the 20th pick.
‘‘I think seeing what all those tight ends do and all those things they’ve been doing is very neat,” said Ertz, who had a scheduled interview with the Bears. “You see [Saints tight end] Jimmy Graham out there against corners all the time, and just seeing what he does is very impressive. It’s something that I just hope I can do at that same level.”
Ertz and Eifert come from college programs that have histories of producing NFL-caliber tight ends. Some teams have eyed Ertz because he comes from a pro-style offense and was used in a three-point stance and split wide. Eifert, meanwhile, has spent ample time working on his blocking, which is “what everyone said [I] was lacking.”
But without question, it’s the mismatches that Eifert (6-5, 250 pounds) and Ertz (6-6, 252 pounds) can create in the passing game that has gained the most attention.
“I’m lucky to be coming in at a time where the type of tight end that I am is being used quite a bit,” Eifert said. “I strive to be a complete tight end.”
Thanks to an influx of such juniors as Ertz and Eifert, the tight-end class immensely improved depth-wise and could affect the Bears’ draft board when it comes to ranking tight ends against offensive linemen and linebackers, two other areas of need.
General manager Phil Emery said the team will take a player who can contribute the most immediately.
“Last year, we were in a very similar spot, and we had about seven players on the board we felt good about,” Emery said. “We took one of them [defensive end Shea McClellin]. As we work through this process, I assume that number will be about seven to 10 that we feel good about. We’ll find the best player who can help us win now.”