The Cincinnati Bengals were the 4th-youngest team in the NFL last season, and will once again be among the league’s youngest and most-talented teams. The majority of their youth lies on the offensive side of the ball, with A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Jermaine Gresham, Andy Dalton, Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler all projected to be starters, despite being 25 years-old or younger. The Bengals added several potential starters via the 2013 NFL Draft.
In case you missed it, ESPN projected rookie running back Giovani Bernard to be a top-ten running back by the 2016 NFL season. Assuming he can stay healthy for the duration of the year, Bernard is the favorite to get the most touches of any offensive player drafted, as the Bengals have desperately needed a dynamic pass-catching back to compliment the short-yardage game of BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
But the player who might see his greatest impact made until later in his career will likely be Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, whom Gary Horton with Scouts Inc. believes could be a top-ten tight end in three years:
He has a big frame with solid athleticism, and he is versatile enough to play every receiver spot, which means flex and wide, and that means good matchups. With Jermaine Gresham around to give them good two-TE packages and with elite outside receiver A.J. Green, Eifert will get a lot of favorable single coverage. He uses his body well to shield the defender, and he is excellent at catching the ball in traffic. He is extremely competitive as well.
Horton ranks Eifert the 9th-best TE behind Pro Bowlers Jimmy Graham, Kyle Rudolph and Rob Gronkowski, as well as Dennis Pitta, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, and Rob Housler. He was also behind Aaron Hernandez, but we‘re assuming he never plays football again.
I fully expect all of the aforementioned TEs to have better 2013 seasons than that of Eifert, as he may not even start one game with Jermaine Gresham on the roster. But by 2016, Gresham will have become a free agent, and may no longer be with the team, leaving Eifert to become the #1 TE and possibly the second-best receiving threat behind All-Pro A.J. Green.