When you start thinking about great tight-end duos in the NFL in recent years, the New England Patriots due of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez certainly come to mind.
In 2011 and 2012, the Patriots used the tight end as a means for the offense to function and Gronkowski and Hernandez thrived in carving up the middle of the field and creating space for the underneath stuff.
2011 Patriots tight ends: 169 catches, 2237 yards and 18 scores.
2012 - Patriots tight ends: 106 catches, 1273 and 16 scores.
That 2011 season was one for the record books as the Patriots completely changed the way the tight-end position had been previously used.
With Hernandez out of the picture, the Cincinnati Bengals duo of Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert may be ready to shoulder the load as the best tight end-duo currently going in the NFL.
Jermaine Gresham - 46 catches, 458 yards and 4 td's
Tyler Eifert - 39 catches, 445 yards and 2 td's
Combined: 85 catches, 903 yards and six scores.
Both of these guys are still young. Gresham turned 26 in June and Eifert won't be 24 until September.
Both are big: Gresham goes 6-foot-5 and 260 lbs. while Eifert is 6-feet-6 and 250 lbs.
It's no secret that with new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson leading the offense this season that the Bengals are likely to run behind that behemoth offensive line.
Gresham is a great blocker when he wants to be, but Eifert isn't bad either. With Eifert getting bigger and stronger in his second year in the league, you can bet the Bengals will line up in the power formation, 2-tight end look when they need a yard.
Chances are they are getting that yard.
What's intriguing to me is the pass catching abilities these tight ends might bring to QB Andy Dalton. In those 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Patriots tight ends going wild, WR Wes Welker thrived.
In 2011, Welker had 1569 yards and in 2012 he finished with 1354 yards.
Imagine what kind of space A.J. Green will have if the Bengals can properly use those tight ends to occupy safeties, thus allowing Green more space on the outside.
In particular, Eifert may turn into an elite tight end in terms of pass catching ability. Eifert has nifty feet and for a rookie tight end he performed exceptionally well.
Two tight end that are equally good at blocking and catching the ball open up the offense in so many ways and I expect Andy Dalton to take that next step as a maturing QB where his completion percentage goes up, his mistakes down and his rating goes up exponentially.
Regarding Fantasy Football purposes for Eifert and Gresham, let's see what the experts have to say.
CBS - Jeremy Eisenberg - Eifert 21st, Gresham 31st
CBS - Dave Richard - Eifert 29th, Gresham (unranked)
Yahoo - (neither TE ranked in top 30
ESPN - Eifert 20th, Gresham 30th
Fox - Eifert 23rd, Gresham (unranked)
Winter analysis: The 'experts' are missing the mark on Eifert. He caught 39 balls for 450 yards and a pair of scores in his rookie season and that over just 15 games.
2013 NFL TE yardage leaders:
Gresham was 19th
Eifert was 22nd.
As far as Fantasy purposes, I can't see adding Gresham to your roster unless it's some kind of two, tight-end league.
Eifert though is another story. I believe the Bengals have plans for him this season and those plans include using his athletic ability to really take advantage of open spaces up the seams.
Charles Clay of Miami was the No. 10 ranked TE by yardage last season with 759 yards. I see Eifert in that area, with potential to go for 800 yards and 6-7 touchdowns.
If that happens, you're looking at one of the better fantasy tight ends in football, and certainly someone to nab for favorable matchups.
Combined totals: 1250 yards, 10 TDs for Gresham and Eifert. If that happens, you can easily give a playoff nod to these Bengals who appear to be a much improved team offensively.
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