The Cincinnati Bengals made the playoffs each of the last two years, bringing hope to a beaten down fan base.
The team has seemingly found a long-term answer at quarterback with “the Red Rifle” Andy Dalton, and has a top wide receiving talent in A.J. Green.
Despite this talented duo, the Bengals only finished 22nd in the NFL in total offense.
They did manage to notch the 12th scoring offense, but struggled to stay on the field, ranking only 24th in first downs.
With these obvious offensive deficiencies, the Bengals grabbed John Mackey award winner Tyler Eifert in the first round of the draft.
At 6’6” and 250 pounds, Eifert is the ideal size for a tight end in today’s NFL.
At the combine, Eifert impressed with his 35.5” vertical leap. His other measurables compare well to Rob Gronkowski as they posted identical 4.68 40 times, and Gronk banged out one more rep of 225 pounds than Eifert.
Obviously, the Bengals would be thrilled to see Eifert produce like Gronkowski, as Gronk set the NFL’s single-season touchdown record for tight ends (17) in 2011.
Looking at Eifert’s college numbers, though, touchdowns weren’t what got him noticed. In three seasons he scored only 11 times.
What made Eifert so valuable at Notre Dame was his productivity on third downs. Over the last two years, Eifert caught 36 third down passes, delivering the first down on 31 of them.
Dalton was especially bad on third downs last year, tossing seven of his 16 interceptions on the down, and only completing 47.5 percent of his attempts.
Time after time the last two years, when Notre Dame had to have a play on offense, they went to Eifert, and the big man delivered.
Another major contribution from Eifert will be in the big play department. Dalton was 24th in the NFL in passes over 20 yards last year, and Eifert had more such receptions last year than anyone on the Bengals not named A.J. Green.
With news that the Bengals are also planning on splitting Eifert out wide, there is every reason to expect his explosiveness to translate.
Another mark in Eifert’s favor is Notre Dame’s history of turning out good tight ends. Like running backs from Georgia or wideouts from Michigan, tight ends from ND tend to live up to their expectations.
The fact that Notre Dame forces their athletes to also be students appears to be helping Eifert adjust to his new team. According to Dalton, “From Day 1 nothing has seemed too big for him. It’s like ‘you want to go do this, OK I’ll go do this.’ He does it really well. That’s why we picked him with the first pick, and he’s really well-deserving.”
To recap: Eifert is an imposing physical specimen, has great measurables, was productive at a big-time program known for his position, is a fast learner and hard worker, and he is playing with a young quarterback who has improved greatly in his two years.
Oh, and he fills the weaknesses of the Bengals' offense perfectly. Eifert is primed to have a huge year, and you could do a lot worse than slotting him into your TE or flex spot on your fantasy roster.
Fearless Forecast: 70 catches, 980 yards, 11 TDs