NFL Draft 2017: Bengals’ Tyler Eifert Has To Shine

Nov 20, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert (85) against the Buffalo Bills at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bills won 16-12. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 20, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert (85) against the Buffalo Bills at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bills won 16-12. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

The Bengals have glaring needs on both sides of the ball. But, there could be moves made during the draft to push Tyler Eifert’s potential.

The moment of hopes and dreams is a little over two days away. The 2017 NFL Draft will get underway in the City of Brotherly Love on Thursday. When the Cincinnati Bengals are on the clock, fans will be torn between cheering for that game-changing defensive threat or an offensive weapon to even the AFC North playing field. But, draft pundits and amateurs are starting to gel on one topic. Tyler Eifert needs to prove he can handle the load in 2017.

I’ve written about the need to have Eifert on the field and I won’t change that mindset. But, it’s not about my personal opinion. Bengals fans are united in their feelings about No. 85. In order for the Orange and Black to do substantial damage, his snap count needs to be as high as possible. Yes, the Bengals have other weapons and can integrate them into the offensive system. But, that will take another year of tinkering and scheme adaptation. This is a must-win year for the Bengals. Execution has to be on point and draft choices have to contribute immediately.

The 2017 campaign will be Eifert’s showcase for coaches, fans and ultimately…himself. After missing half the 2016 season with various injuries (ankle and back), the opinion of his ability to be a constant part of the offense took a huge dive. The Bengals’ red zone efficiency was much better when defenses had to account for both Eifert and a burner coming from the slot or on a fly route. Once again, there are other options which haven’t been proven. Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah are in the wings and possible candidates for starting tight end but, evidently, the confidence from Marvin Lewis isn’t there.

Draft Choices To Push The Envelope 

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It’s starting to feel like the safest option for the Bengals will be O.J. Howard. As far as size and speed comparison, this young man is a lock to start for Cincinnati. If you’re not familiar with his measurables, please crawl from your zombie apocalypse bunker and smell the java. Standing at 6-foot-6-inches, he’s more than tall enough to get up for any errant pass or snag a high and away toss. Some profiles have him listed at a tad over 240 pounds. His muscular frame screams at least 250 or more. That’s just right for handling the blocking chores on the edge.

Eifert and Howard are like bookends. Having both of them in the rotation or on the field at the same time would be like a page from the Vince Lombardi years. A “three yards and a cloud of dust” mentality could go a long way with the right talent. This isn’t to say that the Bengals would have to change their offensive philosophy. But, having the tools to ignite the running game and also two tight ends to stretch the field could do wonders.

Another threat to Eifert is David Njoku. His length and speed are just what the Bengals need to inject another dose of fear into the opposition. Njoku is a former high school wide receiver and runs excellent routes. That said, he would be a work in progress. But, his athleticism and ability to break away on seam routes is a plus.

Need Another Reason?

Eifert is in the last year of his rookie contract. It’s not about his ability to perform when he’s on the field. By all means, Tyler has that aspect sewn up.  What needs to happen now is rather simple. Eifert needs to get in the best shape of his life and prove that he can be a force for more than a few games.

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Contrary to what many may think, the 2017 class is stocked with excellent options at the TE position. Eifert has to show up and not only pad his potential resume but show the Bengals he’s ready to perform at a consistent level with higher snap counts. If he’s going to remain in Cincinnati, he’ll have to pull a Missouri and show the reasons why he should.