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Tyler Eifert named among fantasy football comeback player of the year candidates

If Eifert can stay off the sideline and on the field, he’s in for a big season in 2017.

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals-OTA Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports

Be prepared for another summer full of injury updates for Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert.

In the meantime, the guys at Pro Football Focus tabbed Eifert as one of their top Fantasy Football Comeback Player of the Year candidates. He’s also someone with a decent average draft position, as you’re likely to able to select him in the Round 6 range of fantasy drafts. Eifert is obviously a much better talent than that, but the risk-reward factor of taking an injury-prone player like Eifert makes him a fantasy football option with many strings attached in 2017.

Here’s what PFF had to say on Eifert:

Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals

2017 ADP: 6.07 (TE6)

2016 ADP: 8.07 (TE9)

What went wrong: Not unlike Gronkowski, Eifert is an undeniable talent who has had trouble staying on the field.

Why he’ll bounce back: The top collegiate tight end entering the 2013 NFL Draft, Eifert has become an elite performer in fantasy points per opportunity. Among TEs with at least 30 targets in 2016, he ranked fifth with 0.29 FPPO. The previous season, his 0.39 FPPO trailed only Jordan Reed. Touchdown scoring is not the most predictive fantasy metric, but given Eifert’s steady red-zone role in the Bengals’ offense, he stands out from the pack. Since 2015, he has seen 24 red-zone targets, producing 17 catches and a ridiculous 16 TDs. Between the 20s has been a different story, as Eifert has totaled only 105 regular-season targets over the last two seasons combined. Last season’s top fantasy TE, Travis Kelce, saw 114 targets in 2016 alone. While the injury issues have not sacked his draft stock, if Eifert can just find a way to stay on the field, he’ll still return great value at his current sixth-round ADP as the sixth TE off the board.

Eifert is still recovering from back surgery that was performed before Week 17 of the 2016 season. He had a back injury that popped up in the team’s Week 15 loss to the Steelers and reported symptoms to the team medical staff on Dec. 20. He was then inactive for the final two games. Eifert also had a back injury earlier on in the season, just before he was about to return from his ankle surgery, performed as a result of an injury suffered in the 2016 Pro Bowl. It’s unclear if the early-season back injury was related to the late-season back injury.

It’s unfortunate Eifert is banged up nearly every offseason, but he’s hoping to shed his injury-prone label in 2017. The plan is for him to be cleared to practice by training camp; he’s been on the rehab field for OTAs so far.

If you need a refresher, Eifert was one of the top fantasy football tight ends in the 2015 season, but he suffered a significant ankle injury in the 2016 Pro Bowl. That led to offseason surgery that caused him to miss the start of the 2016 season. He missed four games due to the ankle injury before missing two more games with a combination of that ankle injury and a back strain he suffered in practice leading up to Week 5.

All of this led to Eifert appearing in just eight games, and he still finished tied for second in fantasy points per game among tight ends, trailing only Rob Gronkowski. That tells you just how good Eifert is when healthy, something he’s rarely been in a Bengals uniform.

Eifert is now in a contract year, so he has even more incentive to have a bounceback 2017 season, hopefully making him one of the top fantasy tight ends once more.