I believe that the Cincinnati Bengals are a serious Super Bowl contender entering the 2013 season and a major reason is their recent draft success.
The team has stockpiled young talent throughout the roster and added players via free agency as well.
The Bengals have drafted two tight ends (Gresham in 2010, Tyler Eifert in 2013) to augment the offense in recent years and I feel these two will be major factors in the team’s future success.
Tight ends can be used in both the run and pass games and with the Bengals' West Coast system, fill a vital role. Lets look at the reasons I feel Gresham will flourish in 2013.
Andy Dalton: The Bengals' quarterback is in year three and that usually is a big growth year for QBs. He has thrown for over 7,000 yards and 47 TDs and 29 Interceptions in 32 games and led the team to the playoffs in both seasons.
This is also Dalton’s 3rdseason with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Cannot emphasize enough how big deal that is for a young QB. In Gruden’s offense, the TE gets both volume and quality: Gresham caught 64 balls for 737 yards and 5 TDs in 2012.
NFL trends: Many smart coaches from Bill Parcells on down have stated the NFL is s copycat league. In both 2011 and 2012, the two teams that played in the AFC title game - the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens - feature two tight ends prominently. The NFC champion San Francisco 49ers run many two tight end sets as well. Teams can and have effectively run two tight ends as a primary offensive formation. Why can’t this work in Cincinnati?
A.J. Green: The Bengals' star WR draws the priority of the defense and coverage his way every down yet still puts up huge numbers. The 3rd year man out of Georgia produces regardless and will continue to do so.
However, The team has struggled to find a true No. 2 wideout and the fact that the team has invested so heavily in the tight end position leads me to believe the club would not mind going 2011-12 Patriots' style with one elite WR (Wes Welker) working with two elite TEs (Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski) in the pass game.
The Rules: Recent rule changes over the past 10 years or so have been very favorable towards the offense and passing games in particular. It is much harder to defend the pass with the further emphasis on the no contact rules on receivers after 5 yards implemented in 2004.
Look at the rise in QBs throwing for 3,000, 4,000 and even 5,000 yards. Over the past 2-3 years, the league has grown increasingly concerned with the long-term health of defenseless receivers and has outlawed many lights out type hits on pass catchers and/or backs over the middle of the field.
This makes it much easier for larger inside targets such as Gresham to flourish.