Liam Eichenberg Downplays Athleticism Concerns: ‘My Tape Speaks For Itself’
If Liam Eichenberg perused the internet for breakdowns of his NFL Draft stock, the findings wouldn’t be anything new to him.
Eichenberg, Notre Dame’s three-year starting left tackle, understands there are some questions around his athleticism. He feels strongly enough about the narrative that he took part of his turn during Monday’s Notre Dame Pro Day media session to address it. His view wasn’t an outright dismissal of the veracity, but an emphatic downplaying of its importance.
“The athleticism, if you turn on my tape, I think I blocked everyone I played against pretty well,” Eichenberg said. “People who say that [about athleticism], I don’t think they understand football very well and definitely don’t watch my tape. I think my tape speaks for itself based on my athleticism and ability to play at the next level.”
His tape does indeed reveal plenty. What stands out as much as the good is the absence of bad. Eichenberg’s early-round projection is built on his consistency and fundamentally sound approach in three years of blocking some of college football’s top edge players who became early-round draft picks, including 2019 No. 4 overall Clelin Ferrell (Clemson) and that same year’s No. 13 Rashan Gary (Michigan).
All told, the 6-6, 302-pound Eichenberg hasn’t allowed a sack since October 2018 and surrendered only one quarterback hit last season. In Notre Dame’s 2020 College Football Playoff loss to Alabama, he was the Irish’s offensive standout. He allowed just two quarterback pressures in two 2020 games against Clemson. Whether he was blocking someone off the NFL radar or a future millionaire, chances are Eichenberg won a healthy share of the reps.
“The biggest selling point for me is I think I’m consistent,” Eichenberg said. “I think I’m a guy you can plug in and play right now. I’m not a guy who needs a lot of development. I think I’ve been coached well. I use my technique and fundamentals well. A lot of people knock me for athleticism. Offensive line, I’m not running around or anything, so I guess it’s a little different, but I think I’m a guy who can get to the NFL and play right away.”
On that, draft analysts seem to agree. Though those athleticism questions have contributed to Eichenberg’s absence from the first round in most mock drafts, he’s widely seen as unlikely to slip past the second.
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock draft, though, went as far as to include Eichenberg at the end of round one, as the No. 31 overall pick to the Kansas City Chiefs.
“There's some buzz around Eichenberg, who was the Fighting Irish's left tackle for the past two seasons,” Kiper wrote. “He has great feet and packs a punch in the run game.”
If Eichenberg is a first-rounder, he would be the fourth-straight Irish left tackle to be taken in the first 32 picks. But Kiper’s projection there is among the bolder ones. Yahoo! draft analyst Eric Edholm ranks Eichenberg as the No. 50 player in the draft. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler slotted him 48th on his top-100. A recent two-round mock draft from Pro Football Focus had him as the No. 51 overall pick.
“Eichenberg is a fundamentally minded blocker and stays centered in his pass-sets, allowing his fierce punch and play demeanor to battle defenders,” Brugler wrote. “While he plays under control, his mistakes are usually costly, opening rush lanes and lacking the quickness to easily recover.
“Overall, Eichenberg does not have the athletic traits of past Notre Dame tackles, but he is strong at the point of attack with consistent hands, technique and intelligence. He projects as a B-level NFL starter.”
Since Notre Dame’s 2020 season ended, Eichenberg hasn’t provided any reason to change his projection for better or worse. Wednesday’s pro day workouts in South Bend will be the lone widely viewable opportunity for NFL teams to see him during his pre-draft training.
COVID-19 claimed the traditional NFL Combine format in Indianapolis, which turned individual schools’ pro days into the only real chance to do the normal combine drills. Notre Dame’s Wednesday pro day will have 14 former Irish players and will be televised on NBCSN.
Eichenberg was invited to January’s Senior Bowl, but did not attend. That decision, he explained, was rooted in some COVID-19 concerns and the comfort of letting his three seasons serve as the main basis for evaluation.
“It was a long season. I had a good season, my body was a little beat up,” Eichenberg said. “For me, it was focusing on improving my numbers for pro day and also focusing on football from a technique standpoint and not making my body worse.”
In other words, he trusted his tape. He hopes NFL teams will do the same.
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