When the Bengals drafted Tyler Eifert in April, there may have been a moment of confusion. For most, it was unexpected. Confusion thus encouraged speculation. What could the Notre Dame product bring to the table in Cincinnati? Speculation quickly turned into nods of approval as fans envisioned two tight ends assaulting the opposition.
It seemed logical. It seemed exciting. It seemed like Tyler Eifert could make an immediate impact for a team that needs an offensive boost. Tyler Eifert could very well be a top-twenty player in Cincinnati in 2013. And Cincy Jungle is ranking him 17th.
WHY HE RANKED HERE
Tyler Eifert is entering his rookie season with a Bengals squad that seems tailor-made for his skill set. Eifert, standing at 6'6" and 250 pounds, is a large target with more than capable hands as a receiver. He'll be sharing a field with A.J. Green, who dominates the attention of multiple defenders. Naturally, this opens up space on the rest of the field, and the opposition simply can't afford to have it otherwise.
Eifert will also be seeing an upgrade at quarterback. Regardless of some of Andy Dalton's growing pains, he's simply a better quarterback than anyone Notre Dame has offered. While Dalton continues to work on his deep ball, Eifert provides yet another weapon in the short and intermediate game. He especially benefits the red zone offense.
The fact that Jermaine Gresham will be sharing the field with Eifert shouldn't diminish his output, it should cater to it. One aspect of New England's success resulted from the expectations of Rob Gronkowski blocking while Aaron Hernandez was given more options in the receiving game. Gresham is a more experienced blocker than Eifert, and both tight ends are capable of splitting out wide to torment linebackers and defense backs alike.
Even with all things considered, there's still one of the more important factors of the Cincinnati offense that leaves the door open for a player like Eifert: The need for a No. 2 receiver behind Green. Even if a wide receiver behind Green on the depth chart doesn't emerge, Eifert's (and Gresham's) presence adds a formidable option for Dalton that could very well be the key to a successful 2013 season.
WHY HE SHOULDN'T BE
Much like Giovani Bernard (who was also ranked in the top-20 for 2013), we're judging Eifert on both what we've seen him do at the college level and what the Bengals offense needs to take the next step.
The fact remains, however, that Eifert's contributions at the highest level remain to be seen. As important as the team's running game is, the need for another receiving threat has been on the forefront since the newest incarnation of the Bengals offense was established just several years ago.
Of course, the question remains if Tyler Eifert is part of that collective answer. Eifert still needs to improve as a blocker, but his hands may be what makes or breaks his 2013 debut with Gresham helping on blocking duties. The question also remains as to whether or not offensive coordinator Jay Gruden will execute two tight end sets effectively in 2013. If Gruden were tempted to revert back to a conservative playbook (much like he did in the last playoff game against Houston), he may default to Gresham as his go-to option until he feels more comfortable with Eifert on the field.
Tyler Eifert will begin his NFL career with a very high pedigree as a first round draft pick. Expectations are naturally high. What Eifert can bring to the table is exactly what the Bengals offense is looking for, and because Eifert seems to be the proper piece to the puzzle that we can only assume he'll make an immediate impact in 2013.
As we've suggested, Eifert's success means success for those around him. We saw hints of Dalton gravitating toward a large red zone threat in 2012 with Mohamed Sanu, and there's no question that A.J. Green could use the help.
Once again, the door is open for Eifert and simply put: The addition of Eifert adds options to an offense that is actively searching for more. As Josh put it with Bernard, we'll call it a "fluid ranking." The upside is certainly there and, if realized, Eifert could be a very crucial component this season.