After trading up eight spots in the second round, the Dolphins selected Notre Dame's Liam Eichenberg with the 42nd overall pick and the team's second pick on Day 2 of the NFL Draft.
Miami Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores wants tough guys on his football team. Toughness can be assumed as a prerequisite for lining up in the NFL trenches, but one of the newest Dolphins offensive tackles has visual evidence of how just how far that threshold can extend.
In Notre Dame's blowout win over Florida State, Eichenberg suffered a poke to the eye that caused it to swell shut. It didn't stop him from returning to the lineup, however. For Eichenberg, it was just another day at the office.
"I had to help my team win," he said. "I had to be out there."
Eichenberg, who held an icepack over the eye when the defense was on the field, was again in the lineup the following week, keeping an impressive streak alive. The Fighting Irish were afforded the luxury of 'setting-and-forgetting' the left tackle position for three straight years, a span of 38 consecutive starts for the next Notre Dame offensive lineman.
The games-started streak isn't even the greatest feather in Eichenberg's cap. His production on the field seized that title. The last sack charged to the new Dolphins tackle was in 2018, his fifth game as a collegian. Eichenberg hasn't only prevented sacks since then, but he's also kept opposing pass rushers away from his quarterback almost entirely. In the final 33 games of his Notre Dame career, Eichenberg was charged with just four QB hits and 32 total pressures.
Those four hits and 32 pressures occurred over the course of 1,283 pass-blocking snaps, good for one hit every 320.8 snaps and one hurry every 40.1. The team captain checked in with Pro Football Focus grades in the 90th percentile in pass- and run-blocking and 80th percentile in zone versus gap running grades among all college offensive tackles. He was PFF's No. 9 overall graded run-blocking tackle in 2020.
Though he started as a left tackle, Eichenberg moonlighted as a right tackle in his high school days. He didn't log any reps on the interior of the offensive line, though both he and Coach Flores aren't concerned with position designations at this stage of the process.
“I’ll play anywhere they need me. For me, it’s about helping the team win, so I look forward to getting down there. They could put me at center. They could put me wherever. It’s kind of wherever they want me. I’m just very fortunate to be part of the team.” Liam Eichenberg on position
“As far as positions, I think he’s played left, he’s played some right and I think we’ve just got to get him in here before we get into positions. Get him in, get him acclimated, get him getting to know his teammates and obviously learning the playbook and we’ll work him in with our group. But he’s got versatility to play left, right, guard; so like always, we’re always looking to play the best five so he’s got to earn his role on this team.” Brian Flores on Eichenberg’s position
How about the culture fit?
Team-first players who love the game and prioritize winning, that's the model Flores and General Manager Chris Grier have established in their third season together in Miami. Eichenberg has two pre-existing relationship with his new teammates; one from the Notre Dame pipeline and another from offseason workout programs.
"I've been able to meet a couple of their players and they carry themselves well," Eichenberg said. "(I know) Durham Smythe, and then I met Austin Jackson when I was out in Phoenix training. It was just kind of that idea that this team has a great culture, they are very disciplined and everybody has that same mindset that they want to help the team win. I love it. I think it's about the team, the team's first. I'm excited for it."
Scouts agree that Eichenberg has the goods to step in as a contributor thanks to technical refinement and smooth mechanics.
Eichenberg has ideal height and awareness. He does a good job of staying square and shooting his hands. He usually stays connected when he lands his punch. He flashes the ability to latch and drive defenders over his nose in the run game. He takes good angles when working up to the second level.
Pro Football Focus' Mike Renner echoed some of those thoughts.
"Eichenberg provides one of the higher floors in the class," Renner wrote. "A well-oiled machine with his technique, ready to contribute Day 1 and his feet in pass sets are as crisp as you'll see in college football."
At 6-6, 306 pounds, Eichenberg tested well above the class average in three important categories.
|Testing Metric||Eichenberg's Record||Percentile Among OTs|
|Bench Press||33 Reps||95th|
From one football factory in Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland to another in Notre Dame, one trait that has consistently elevated Eichenberg throughout his football journey is his work ethic.
"God-given talent and he's a big kid. But the number one characteristic is work ethic. That's why he's in the position he's in.
- Chuck Kyle, Eichenberg's High School Coach