Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
On paper, the Bengals don't have much need for another tight end. But, with the offense needing more from the two that they have on the roster, using a relatively high pick on the position could be fruitful for the team in 2013.
Most would agree that tight end would likely not be on the "Bengals 2013 Roster Needs List". With Jermaine Gresham coming off of back-to-back Pro Bowls and the team using a 2012 fourth round selection on Orson Charles, the position group seems to have a pretty bright future.
Still, both of those players had their share of disappointments in 2012. Gresham struggled with consistency issues and graded low with ProFootballFocus in the area of blocking throughout the season, despite his making the Pro Bowl once again as an alternate. Charles flashed athleticism and good hands, but the staff couldn't find a way to properly integrate his skills into the offense. We hope to see that change in 2013.
Still, the Bengals usually keep three tight ends on the 53-man roster and having another big body with good hands could only help. The NFL trend has the value of the tight end pointing up and the more capable players you have at the position, the better. Last year's third tight end, Richard Quinn, is set to be a restricted free agent and was barely active last season. This year's draft class has a bunch of solid prospects that could have the Bengals looking at the position at a relatively high round.
This could especially be true if the Bengals feel that they are set at the wide receiver position. The team needs more quality pass-catchers and improvement is needed on third down and in the red zone. Those two areas were the downfall of the offense last year and they are two scenarios in which tight ends should find success.
The consensus top two prospects at the position, Zach Ertz and Tyler Eifert, seem to be out of the range that the Bengals would look to invest at the position. We're thinking that as high as the third round on down could be in play for an addition to that position group. Here's a look at some of the players that could fall into that range and could intrigue the Bengals:
Joseph Fauria, UCLA, 6'7", 255 pounds: Fauria is a huge target that's thought of as more of a receiving tight end, than a blocker. The irony there is that the Bruins haven't had much in the way of quarterback play in his tenure at UCLA. In 2012, Fauria had the benefit of the best quarterback play in his time there. In 2012, Fauria had 46 catches for 637 yards and 12 touchdowns. He ran a 4.85 40-yard dash at the Combine and is the nephew of another solid NFL tight end, Christian Fauria.
Gavin Escobar, San Diego State, 6'6", 255 pounds: Escobar was ranked as Mike Mayock's third-best tight end prospect going into the Combine and seems to have a lot of upside. Statistically speaking, Escobar actually had a better 2011 than 2012, but there was some good consistency shown from year-to-year. He's another guy that has to work on his blocking for the NFL level, but he has excellent hands. He did run slower than expected at the Combine with a 4.84 40-yard dash time, but he had a solid performance in other areas.
Dion Sims, Michigan State, 6'5", 280 pounds: The bulkiest of all of the tight ends in this year's draft, Sims raised eyebrows with his 4.68 40-yard dash--a time that is very good for his size. He doesn't have as much tape to go on as others in the draft class, but is considered one of the more well-rounded tight ends this year. He likely won't be a team's go-to tight end, but could be a good supplemental player if used correctly.
Travis Kelce, Cincinnati, 6'6", 260 pounds: A local favorite amongst Bengals fans, Kelce also has family ties to the NFL. He had a quality season in 2012 with 45 catches for 722 yards and eight touchdowns. Another receiving-first tight end, Kelce has sports hernia surgery recently and didn't work out at the Combine. While that's not a major injury, it could cause his stock to drop a little.
There are a myriad of other tight ends that could be possibilities outside the above-mentioned four. They might opt to forgo a tight end with a relatively high pick, but with the offensive improvements that need to be made it might be prudent to look at one of those players should the value be there.