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Bengals roster breakdown, 90-for-90: Tyler Kroft

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Kroft is one of the more intriguing Bengals to watch for in 2017.

NFL: International Series-Washington Redskins at Cincinnati Bengals Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals have great depth at the tight end position, and the hope is Tyler Kroft grows to possess a bigger role in the offense this year after getting lost in the shuffle in 2016.

Where does Kroft stand on the current depth chart, and how secure is his roster spot this season?

Tyler Kroft

Height: 6’6”

Weight: 250

College: Rutgers

Experience: Third-year player in 2017

Cap Status

Kroft is entering the third year of his four-year rookie deal. He’ll have a cap hit of $799,944 this season and a dead cap hit of $323,888 if waived, according to Over The Cap.

Background

It’s hard to appear in 30 career games and still be a big unknown heading into your third season, but that’s the case with Kroft. Tight end wasn't viewed as a big position of need for the Bengals entering the 2015 NFL draft, but they still spent a high pick on one, grabbing Kroft out of Rutgers with the 85th-overall pick.

At the time, drafting Kroft did look smart with Tyler Eifert recovering from shoulder surgery and Jermaine Gresham leaving in free agency. The Scarlet Knights pass-catcher notched 67 passes, 842 yards and four touchdowns during his sophomore and junior seasons, before opting to declare for the draft in 2015, forgoing his senior season.

Kroft impressed with his athletic testing, posting a broad jump of 10 feet, a 34" vertical jump and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds at his pro day. Even so, most experts viewed Kroft as a Day 3 draft pick, not someone who should be going early on Day 2. While draft analysts and experts didn't think as highly of Kroft as the Bengals did, not only did the team love Kroft, but Marvin Lewis called him "the best of the tight end prospects" from the 2015 draft.

In hindsight, that wasn’t that crazy of a claim, though mostly because the 2015 class has turned into a woefully bad class of tight ends. Kroft hasn’t become the best one out of the class yet, but there’s certainly still time for him to further develop into that role.

In 2015, Kroft played in every game as a rookie while making six starts. Some of those starts came while Eifert was injured with a stinger and concussion late in the season, and Kroft was serviceable in his place, even getting a very Eifert-like touchdown in the Bengals' Week 15 game against the 49ers with AJ McCarron at quarterback.

However, Eifert went on to have a Pro Bowl season alongside A.J. Green, who also drew many of the passing targets. That led to Kroft being relegated to mostly a blocking tight end for much of the year, a role in which he was decent, though he needs to keep bulking up and improve in that area this offseason.

When called upon in the passing game, Kroft was about as reliable as you could ask for. On just 14 targets, Kroft secured 11 grabs for 129 yards (11.7 yards) and a touchdown. His one score came during the above-mentioned Week 15 win over the 49ers.

Kroft was poised to make a major jump in 2016 with Eifert set to miss the start of the season due to ankle surgery. However, he ended up missing most of training camp and the preseason due to a knee injury. That allowed fellow 2015 draftee C.J. Uzomah to rise up and take over the No. 1 tight end job for much of the first six weeks of the regular season.

Once Kroft was back up to speed, Eifert had already returned and began taking almost all of the tight end snaps, which led to Kroft spending much of 2016 as a situational blocker, though he did appear in 14 games and played 374 snaps. With that playing time, he caught just 10 passes for 92 yards.

Roster Odds

Kroft is almost certainly making the final roster this year. However, he’ll be in a tough battle with Uzomah for the No. 2 tight end spot. That should be a close battle that could linger on throughout the regular season, but there’s almost no chance Kroft isn’t on the 53-man roster in September.

A big reason why is, if nothing else, he’s insurance for Eifert if the Pro Bowler leaves in free agency next year. The Bengals still have Kroft and Uzomah under contract for two more seasons.

Odds: 75 percent.