When the Bengals were on the clock tonight, all I could think was, "please don't screw this up". As we all thought they might, the Bengals had an embarrassment of riches to pick from at 21. They could have picked Arthur Brown or Jonathan Cyprien or Tank Carradine. But all those men are still available, along with Eddie Lacy, Giovanni Bernard, Johnathan Franklin, Kevin Minter, and other talented players I'm sure I'm forgetting.
But the pick was Tyler Eifert. The Bengals signed Alex Smith, and already have Jermaine Gresham and Orson Charles. Another tight end?! What happens to Orson Charles and Alex Smith? Well, they're outstanding depth outside of that 3-TE package. They're options if the Bengals cannot re-sign Gresham. That's a tangent for rosterology post.
Eifert is a better overall prospect than Gresham was when he was drafted from Oklahoma at 21 a few years ago. He is the clear-cut cream of the crop in this draft. He's got elite ball skills, is a willing blocker, but doesn't have Aaron Hernandez or Vernon Davis speed. He's strong, big, and has good straight-line speed.
Gresham still has more potential than Eifert, but Eifert was the only elite player left at 21, and I'm glad he was the pick. He will be a handful in the seam and underneath, and will create the match-up nightmares in the secondary and against linebackers that we hoped we'd get from Gresham. As Alen Dumonjic points out in this article, Eifert should be a monster in the seam. His ball skills make him a terror in the red zone.
Imagine lining up a jumbo package with 3 tight ends (including Eifert and Gresham), AJ Green out wide, and <Franklin/Bernard/Ellington> at RB, and running 4 Verticals out of that package? 3 huge receivers who will win jump balls against linebackers and safeties, or AJ Green is single-covered along the sideline. And that's just one way you can use the new-found Bengals' TE depth.
Eifert is an exciting pick for me because it proves that the Bengals are willing to draft BPA. I was terrified of a Menelik Watson pick. Apparently we should have been terrified of a Travis Frederick pick (wow, Dallas!) too.
The Bengals added a weapon today. The Bengals gave Dalton another toy. AJ Green is AJ Green. Eifert could also pressure Gresham into performing. I expect second year receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones to improve, as receivers are wont to early in their careers.
Suddenly, assuming the Bengals add an electric running back sometime in the next two days, this offense is dynamic again.
And do you know what makes it better? The other acceptable picks at 21 are still likely to be there at 37. Carradine, Brown, Cyprien, you name it - they could all still be Bengals tomorrow. The BPA strategy paid off and the Bengals are staring at the face of value in round 2.