Roster Projections is a series that’ll look to break down and discuss each of the Cincinnati Bengals’ position groups, then project how they’ll look at the end of the 2018 offseason. In this series, we’ll look at players’ 2017 seasons, analyze them as they currently are, and predict how they’ll spend 2018 with the Bengals. The fourth edition of this series will cover the Bengals’ tight ends.
Injuries have taken their toll on Cincinnati’s tight ends in recent years. Tyler Eifert is as dominant as they come when he’s on the field – he wasn’t in 2017. His replacement, Tyler Kroft, filled in admirably before injuries struck him down as well. When healthy, this a position group that can transform the Bengals’ offense.
Eifert is an undeniable star when on the field. At 6’6″ and 255 lbs., he has the size and athleticism to command special attention from defenses. With that talent, he scored 13 touchdowns in 2015 – but he’s appeared in only 10 of 32 games in the two seasons since. Eifert is back on a one-year, “prove it” deal after undergoing back surgery in 2017. If he stays healthy, replicating those 2015 numbers (52 catches, 615 yards, 13 touchdowns) is a real possibility.
If injuries find their way to Eifert again, Tyler Kroft showed last season that he’s capable of stepping in. While not the athlete that Eifert is, Kroft brings similar size and can make his presence known in the red zone. He’s a big-bodied receiver, even if he may never be a seam-stretching downfield threat. Still, Kroft flashed enough last season to warrant an increase in playing time in 2018, healthy Eifert or not.
C.J. Uzomah is another player that saw the field due to injuries at the tight end position. He may be the fastest of the three players, but he’s not the refined tight end that Eifert or Kroft are. He failed to stand out when given the opportunity last season, so it may be hard for him to see much playing time again. Still, Uzomah’s athletic enough to be an intriguing option if injury hits the starters again.
There’ll be a handful of tight ends fighting for a spot on the roster or practice squad. 2017 seventh-round pick Mason Schreck may have the inside track as another big-bodied (6’5″, 252 pounds) receiver type. Moritz Böhringer was a draft darling in 2016 due to his physical attributes and interesting background but lasted little over a season as a receiver with the Vikings. He’ll go into camp with the Bengals as a tight end. Cethan Carter, a smaller hybrid-type tight end, made the roster in 2017 as more of an H-back. Jordan Franks, an undrafted 2018 free agent, will have to travel a similar road to find a roster spot.
Ryan Hewitt is all but guaranteed a roster spot this season. He fills the starting fullback/H-back role for the team and has for several seasons. He’s a subpar receiver, but that’s not why the Bengals keep him on the roster. Look for Hewitt to help fuel the resurgence of the Bengals’ running game in 2018.