Even though the Bengals re-signed fragile tight end Tyler Eifert for another year, nobody knows how well he will hold up. Eifert’s future in Cincinnati is still anyone’s guess after the 2018 season is over. Additionally, Tyler Kroft, and C.J. Uzomah will also be free agents in 2019, so the Bengals might look to boost the tight end group in the draft this year.
One possible option the Bengals could investigate would be Troy Fumagalli. The former walk-on from Aurora, Illinois was one of Wisconsin’s top targets over the last two years, a span in which the Badgers went to two Big Ten Championship games and won two New Year’s Six bowls. While the Badgers are known for defense and running, Fumagalli comprised most of the team’s passing offense. Though his production is similar to other top prospects at the position, Fumagalli is slated to go off the board on the third day of the draft. Could the Bengals pick up a bargain in a late round?
Weight: 248 pounds
Year: Redshirt Senior
Projected round: Rounds 5-6
Bench press: 14 reps
Receptions: 135 career; 46 in 2017
Receiving yards: 1,627 career; 547 in 2017
Receiving touchdowns: 7 career; 4 in 2017
Numbers don’t lie, but in this case you would have to dig a little deeper. Fumagalli led the Badgers in receiving yards during his senior campaign and led the team in receptions each of the last two years. He is now number seven on Wisconsin’s all-time career receptions list, behind his former teammate and current Bengals wide receiver Alex Erickson.
While his production seems modest, one has to account for outside factors. First of all, he played in a run-first offense at Wisconsin, where the offense attempted 615 rushes and only 324 passing attempts last season. Second of all, Fumgalli was primarily used as a blocker, even on passing plays. Finally, most of Fumagalli’s routes were either flats, short digs, or seams. In other words, he was rarely the first look and was mostly used as a check-down option. So his final seasons of 40+ receptions, 500+ receiving yards, and career average of 12.1 yards per reception are actually impressive.
Given his production, why is he projected to drop to the third day of the draft?
Fumagalli lacks the athleticism to make him a regular starter in the NFL. He made up for it with effort in college, but the NFL is a completely different animal. His film doesn’t display his athleticism well, but he only did one exercise at the combine (bench press, and he only pumped out a tight end-low 14 reps); he then went on to skip his pro day workout. So he blew any chance he had to prove NFL teams he has more to offer.
His route running was extremely limited in college as he only ran a handful of routes and was never the primary receiver. However, he had strong hands and a great vertical, so he could catch pretty much any ball thrown in his direction.
Because of his general lack of athletic ability, it is not worth taking a chance on Fumagalli in the early rounds of the draft, since his passing game is limited, especially since he has no combine or pro day workouts on his resume. However, despite all of the odds stacked against him, he still managed to produce on a similar level as the top receiving tight end in the draft, Mike Gesicki. He has the guts to overcome a myriad of weaknesses, so you know he is the kind of guy who will put his head down and give 110 percent on every play. If the Bengals go with Fumagalli, they will have a solid second tight end who will be able to help the offense on run plays and play action passes. He could even help out on special teams, blocking for Erickson for old times’ sake.
While Fumagalli would not be an option to replace Eifert if the Bengals move on from him next year, he would be able to replace Kroft as the primary blocking tight end. As a day three draft pick, the return on the investment would be well worth it.