Tyler Kroft brings versatility to the Bengals offense and the assurance that even if one tight end named Tyler is hurt, another will be available. During his time at Rutgers, Kroft lined up all over the field: in-line, in the slot and outside as a receiver; the Bengals will appreciate that versatility in 2015. We spoke with On The Banks' managing editor, Timothy Wentz to learn more about the Bengals' addition of Kroft, the 99th overall selection in the 2015 draft.
Cincy Jungle: What do you think of the Bengals' selection of Tyler Kroft in the 3rd round?
Timothy Went: The Bengals are a good fit for Kroft. Cincinnati transitioned to a more run-based attack late last season after Jeremy Hill really emerged. If they continue that into 2015, Kroft should see a lot of action, because he is a good run blocker. In the passing game, he’s athletic and has a knack for finding gaps in the defense, especially against the zone. Tight end was certainly a need for Cincinnati with Jermaine Gresham’s future with the team up in the air and Tyler Eifert dealing with injuries.
CJ: Did you think he'd get drafted sooner/later?
TW: Heading into the draft, I expected to see Kroft go in the fourth or fifth round. His production really dipped this past season because of inconsistency at the quarterback position. Whether it was due to teams focusing on Kroft or the need for him as a blocker, he did not have the impact in the passing game that he did in 2013. Because of his low 2014 production, I thought teams would consider him a risky pick in the first three rounds.
CJ: Do you see Kroft as someone who could make an immediate impact in the NFL? Do you think he still has some learning to do?
TW: I expect Kroft to see plenty of action in his rookie season. Now, that doesn't mean he is completely NFL-ready. He could certainly sharpen his route running and he needs to add on some bulk in order to be an every-down tight end. However, technique-wise, he was one of the better blockers in this tight end class and he has the athleticism to create separation at the next level. I believe he can step right in and play.
CJ: What were some of your favorite things about watching Kroft during his time at Rutgers?
TW: Kroft’s versatility really stands out. He lined up all over the field, whether it was in-line, in the slot or outside as a receiver. He played receiver in high school, so he has a good feel for running routes and creating separation. He may not be the biggest tight end, but he is a tough, willing blocker who consistently controls his defender off the snap. He’s just exciting to watch because he doesn't have any glaring weaknesses.
CJ: Was he a star on the team?
TW: Tight ends never get the full credit they deserve, because of the blocking they have to do. However, Rutgers Nation recognized the potential Kroft had and fully embraced him. It’s hard to call a guy who had only 900 yards and five touchdowns over his career a true "star," but he made splash plays in the passing game and consistently did his job in the trenches.
CJ: Did he have any injuries during his college days that you remember?
TW: Kroft suffered an ankle injury in the bowl game versus North Carolina, his final collegiate game. The injury nagged him up until the NFL Combine, keeping him out of any speed drills. However, at Rutgers Pro Day, he answered any questions NFL teams may have had about his ankle, running a 4.67 40 and broad jumping 10 feet (farther than Maxx Williams, the first tight end drafted).
CJ: Did he have any stand-out games?
TW: Kroft really broke out in this 2013 game versus Arkansas, totaling 133 yards on six receptions and a touchdown. They lined him up all over the field and brought him in motion to create mismatches and put pressure on the secondary. Kroft consistently found holes in the defense, especially the seams, and delivered big plays at crucial times.
CJ: Are there any current NFL players who you would compare Kroft to?
TW: Luke Willson, Heath Miller, Owen Daniels, Brent Celek. He fits the bill of the all-around tight end who has a knack for finding open gaps in the defense and possesses the quickness to create mismatches.