Going into the 2013 NFL Draft, the biggest needs for the Cincinnati Bengals were in a number of areas other than tight end, but with Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert sitting on the board at pick #21, it was too good of an oppurtunity to pass up. Eifert led the Fighting Irish in receiving in 2012 with a team-best 50 catches for 685 yards and four touchdowns, as he won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end.
In 2011, Eifert led all FBS tight ends with 63 grabs for 803 yards, and his five touchdowns made him a nice red-zone complement to first-round receiver Michael Floyd. He’ll hope to have a similar role in Cincinnati as he looks to take pressure off of A.J. Green, who is constantly facing double and even triple teams as opponents are beginning to give him the superstar treatment reserved for only the elite.
But when looking out how Eifert will upgrade the Bengals offense, Jamison Hensley of ESPN pointed out how Cincinnati sported one of the worst 3rd-down conversion rates in the NFL in 2012, and Eifert’s potential impact on that:
Third downs: Where the Bengals have struggled the most is on third downs. Cincinnati ranked 27th in converting third downs last season at 34 percent. To put it in perspective, the only teams worse than the Bengals in this category were four last-place teams (Chiefs, Browns, Jaguars and Cardinals) and a team with a losing record (Rams). Dalton was particularly poor on third downs, completing 47.5 of his passes (worst among quarterbacks with at least 350 pass attempts) and throwing seven interceptions (tied for third-most on third downs).
Eifert came up big on third downs during his time at Notre Dame. In the last two seasons, he caught 36 passes on third downs and converted 31 of them into first downs. His 13 receptions on third down last season was tied for eighth among college tight ends, according to ESPN Stats & Information. What makes Eifert so valuable in these situations is the trust factor. Dalton can look to Eifert in pressure moments because he has dependable hands and can make tough catches while getting hit. The same can’t be said of Gresham, whose mental lapses and drops have hurt Cincinnati.