Cincinnati Bengals fans and Tyler Eifert fantasy owners got some bad news on Wednesday evening. Eifert will have surgery on his injured back, and will miss the rest of the 2017 season. This will be Eifert’s third back surgery overall. It is more of the same from the talented tight end out of Notre Dame. Eifert has played 5 seasons with the Bengals and has not played a full season yet due to injuries. Drafted 21st overall in the 2013 draft, Eifert had all the skills and potential NFL teams look for in a Tight End. Starting with the Combine, Eifert was off to a scorching hot start to his career in Cincinnati. In his first season alone he posted 39 receptions, 445 yards, and 2 touchdowns in 15 games before a shoulder injury ended his season. His second season ended after one game due to a dislocated elbow. The 2015 season is what continues to drive his value where he exploded for 52 receptions, 615 yards, and 13 touchdowns. Then, he injured his neck and struggling with concussion related symptoms, missing several games at the end of the year. He also had ankle surgery that offseason, and missed the first 7 games of the 2016 season. He returned and played well for the Bengals until week 15 when he injured his back. The bottom line with Tyler Eifert: he just can’t stay healthy. It is pretty obvious that A.J. Green will continue to be the offensive weapon most heavily relied upon. However, let’s take a look at some other guys whose value could be impacted by Eifert’s season ending injury.
Who fills in at tight end in Cincinnati while Eifert is sidelined? That is the obvious question, and one that is easily answered. Tyler Kroft will be the player that steps in for Eifert at tight end. While it may seem like Kroft has some big shoes to fill, I believe he’s more than capable. Don’t get me wrong, Kroft is not going to win you your league this year. My opinion that he can step in and be an adequate fantasy producer has more to do with Eifert than Kroft. Eifert has averaged 3.3 receptions, 40.3 yards, and 0.5 touchdowns on a per game basis throughout his career. Those numbers are not overly impressive, and I believe Kroft can come close to matching those. The Bengals offense will be led by tight end-loving Andy Dalton who looks for them in the red zone. Kroft has an even bigger opportunity here looking ahead to next year. Eifert is in the last year of his contract and Cincinnati could choose to move on from him. Of course, the Bengals may draft a tight end, or look at some free agents, but right now Kroft is penciled in as the starter.
Another player that could potentially benefit from Eifert being out is rookie RB Joe Mixon. Mixon is averaging 19 touches per game over the last three games and is a very talented player. Even though the rookie had just 38 snaps combined through weeks 1 and 2 he now has 101 snaps in the past 3 games. I think Mixon’s value will be most impacted in the red zone and short passing game. Cincinnati will look to run the ball more in the red zone and, while he isn’t known much for his pass catching abilities, Mixon has shown to be an adequate pass catcher who can make plays in space.
Finally, let’s take a look at how Andy Dalton’s value could be impacted by the loss of one of his favorite pass catching targets. Eifert seems to be somewhat of a security blanket for Dalton. His go-to guy when he needs a big first down, or that clutch red zone catch. We haven’t seen it yet, but Kroft could become Dalton’s new security blanket IF he established the same chemistry Dalton had with Eifert. Will Dalton force the ball to his best weapon A.J. Green, leading to more turnovers? Certainly, getting A.J. Green the ball as much as possible seems like a great idea, but if Dalton forces throws or doesn’t spread the ball it could backfire.
It will be interesting to see how these players are impacted by Tyler Eifert’s season ending injury, and the overall impact on the Bengals’ season. Injuries are a part of football, both real and fantasy. Unfortunately, Eifert has had many throughout his career, to the dismay of both the Bengals, and his fantasy owners.
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