One good thing about the turtle-like pace of the offseason is that it allows us to slow down and take stock of certain positions. Now that the dust from the draft and free agency has mostly settled, team compositions are mostly set, and critical analyses can finally take place.
Over at ESPN, AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley has been hard at work doing a position-by-position ranking for each team in the division. On Thursday, Hensley tackled the tight end position, and his results might surprise you. Despite adding another first-round tight end to their roster in Tyler Eifert, the Bengals come in second place, just behind the Baltimore Ravens.
And it's hard to argue with the reasoning.
2. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals potentially have the best tight end tandem in the division. They certainly have invested in the position, selecting a tight end in the first round in two of the past four drafts. Jermaine Gresham has admittedly not lived up to expectations, even though his catches and receiving yards have increased every year. The problem with Gresham is his lack of explosiveness and increased drops, especially in the playoff loss at Houston. It was a wise move for the Bengals to draft Tyler Eifert in the first round. He can stretch the field and make an impact in the red zone.
As Hensely states, on the surface, the Bengals appear to have the best tight end group in the division. But that perception is based entirely on labels, not production. Jermaine Gresham is a two-time Pro Bowler who was drafted in the first round in 2010. Tyler Eifert is also a first-rounder who plays the position more like a wide receiver than a tight end. Taken together, the Bengals would seem to have the top tandem of tight ends in the AFCN, and arguably one of the best duos in the league. But all of that is based on potential and (let's face it) hollow awards. In reality, Eifert is an unknown commodity and Gresham is prone to lapses in concentration. Although he has gone to two straight Pro Bowls, he has backed into each of them, going as an alternate rather than outright selection.
The NFL is very much result-focused, and as much as it might pain Bengals fans to admit it, the Ravens' duo of Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson has outplayed the Bengals' twosome thus far in their careers. Of course, that could all change in 2013. Gresham could rise to the occasion and overcome his drops and Eifert could find a profitable niche as the Bengal's number two tight end, which would catapult them into the division lead. But again, these are all hypothetical scenarios, which is exactly why the Bengals rank second instead of first.
The Bengals tight end tandem certainly possesses the ability to be the best in the AFC North, but until they actually go out and prove it, they will still rank number two, and rightfully so.