Tyler Eifert reemerged in 2015 after shoulder and elbow injuries limited him to one quarter of play in 2014. The hopes were high for the third year tight end entering 2015, but there were questions of whether Eifert would live up to his first round draft billing.
Eifert certainly lived up to and exceeded expectations, playing like one of the best tight ends in the NFL for the entire season (minus three games due to injury). In terms of pass catching, the only tight end who might be better than Eifert at this point is Rob Gronkowski. If that doesn't seem like a big deal, keep in mind that - if he stays healthy - Gronk could be to tight ends what Jerry Rice was to receivers. Eifert finished with 52 receptions, for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns. For highlights of his best catches, including his 13 touchdowns, check out the following video:
To really appreciate the Bengals' rising star, here are five eye-popping stats about Eifert:
1. While he finished second in the NFL with 13 touchdown catches, Eifert did so on only 72 targets. That means he scored once every 5.5 times Andy Dalton threw the ball his way. Meanwhile, the three players who tied for first with 14 touchdown catches all saw more than 100 targets. Gronkowski, by comparison, scored 11 times on 120 targets (once every 10.9 passes thrown in his direction).
2. Eifert caught an astonishing 72 percent of his targets. By comparison, Gronkowski, who has Tom Brady as his quarterback, arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, caught 60% of his targets.
3. Eifert led all tight ends in Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement, a stat given by footballoutsiders.com, which measures the value of a player's performance on a play where he caught the ball compared to a replacement tight end in the same situation. He also led in Yards Above Replacement, which does not take the opponent into account.
4. Eifert led the entire NFL (QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs) in Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (42%), which measures a player's value per play when compared with a player in the same situation. (That is, unless you count New Orleans Saints backup QB Luke McCown, who was graded at 77.1%. Of course, he only threw 39 passes all year.) In fact, Eifert's mark was double that of Gronkowski (21%).
5. Pro Football Focus gave Eifert a grade of 88.9 for the season, which indicates that he isn't just a massive receiver, he's a great all-around player. Eifert is a reliable, though not yet elite, blocker, and he should only continue to get better in 2016, his second year as a starter.