NFL draft: Bengals take tight end with top pick
Cincinnati hopes the addition of tight end Tyler Eifert will keep defenses from focusing on A.J. Green as much.
CINCINNATI — Tyler Eifert made a mental note of all the NFL teams needing a tight end. The Bengals weren’t on his list.
So, it surprised him to be on a conference call to Cincinnati last night, trying to find a quiet spot in his joyous Fort Wayne, Ind., home to talk about going somewhere unexpected.
“We all do our own mock drafts in our head, who needs the position that we are and whatnot,” Eifert said. “So I was a little surprised.”
The Bengals didn’t really need a tight end in the first round of the NFL draft. They took Jermaine Gresham in the first round in 2010, and he’s made the past two Pro Bowls. Given the way the first round unfolded, they decided to take Eifert with the 21st pick to give their offense another pass-catching option.
Eifert was known for making catches in a crowd at Notre Dame. He also lined up at all the receiver spots in the Fighting Irish offense, making him a valuable option. The Bengals figure they can line him up along with Gresham and take some of the defense’s focus away from Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green.
“With two tight ends in the game at the same time, or three, it creates problems for the defense,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. “He’s a very fluid route runner, great in space and very good after the catch.”
Finding someone to complement Green has been a challenge for the Bengals the past two seasons. Now quarterback Andy Dalton will have another sure-handed option, this one in the form of a 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end.
“I’m sure Andy’s happy right now,” Gruden said. “We’re trying to make sure Andy is happy. Obviously, we’ve got to take the pressure off A.J. Green, and this is one step in doing that.”
The Bengals went into the opening round of the draft uncertain about their situation at right tackle, where Andre Smith is an unrestricted free agent. They also are trying to solidify the safety position. With a run on linemen and the top-rated safeties, they decided to help an offense that struggled down the stretch.