Why Tyler Eifert Is Primed for a Breakout Season in 2015

Eifert missed nearly the entire 2014 season, but things look promising heading into 2015.

In 2014, Tyler Eifert recorded just three receptions in the Cincinnati Bengals' opening game against the Baltimore Ravens before dislocating his elbow and missing the remainder of the season.

So, it's not exactly a surprise that, in best-ball leagues as of April 14th, Eifert is getting drafted with the 126th pick, on average. That's after 12 other tight ends and, on average, just five or six picks before the 16th tight end comes off the board (Jason Witten currently).

That's well and good -- and it's not like Eifert is going undrafted or anything -- but I kind of think that's a steal. I also really hope that the fantasy football community is still that low on him come August when re-draft leagues begin.

Let me tell you why.

Eifert's Comparisons

I actually championed the ill-fated cause for Eifert in 2014, too, making the case for why he could be a top-12 fantasy tight end.

One of the biggest reasons why I thought he could have a nice season was his measurables. Check out how he compares physically to the top three tight ends getting drafted currently in best-ball leagues.

Tyler Eifert77"25033 1/8"9 1/8"
Rob Gronkowski78"25834 1/4"10 3/4"
Jimmy Graham78"26035"10 5/8"
Travis Kelce77"25533 3/4"9 5/8"

Pretty nice, right? Here are their combine results.

Player40 yd20 yd10 ydVertBroad3Cone20 ss
Tyler Eifert4.682.691.6635.5119"6.924.32
Rob Gronkowski4.682.681.5833.5119"7.184.47
Jimmy Graham4.532.611.5338.5120"6.904.45
Travis Kelce4.642.721.6135.0124"7.094.42

Simply put, Eifert stacks up quite well with the top trio at tight end, and that is absolutely elite company when we're talking tight ends.

More important -- perhaps -- for Eifert, Jermaine Gresham is now a free agent.

Opportunity Rising

Heading into last year, there were reasons to believe that Eifert could succeed in spite of splitting time with Gresham. Now, Eifert is the top man on the depth chart.

In 2014, Gresham saw 80 targets, the 16th-most at the tight end position. That's not an elite amount, and it's not really surprising -- the Bengals were the fourth-most run heavy team in the league. Eifert has the potential, but is enough opportunity actually there to cash in on his fantasy -- and real-world -- potential?

Well, Gresham managed to be just the 15th-best PPR tight end in fantasy football amidst injuries to Eifert, A.J. Green, and Marvin Jones, but he didn't lack red zone opportunities.

In 2014, Gresham saw 13 red zone targets, per CBS, and caught 9 of them for 5 touchdowns. His targets ranked ninth among tight ends, his catches were eighth, and his touchdowns tied for seventh. Gresham was targeted on 25.0 percent of Cincinnati's red zone pass attempts, which ranked fifth among tight ends.

Despite the red zone production and ample opportunity, Gresham just did not put forth an efficient year, according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. NEP quantifies a player's success above or below league average -- or expectation.

Among the 25 tight ends with at least 50 targets in 2014, Gresham's Reception NEP per target (0.37) ranked just 22nd. His overall Reception NEP (29.44) was just 20th. It would be hard for Eifert to be much worse.

In fairness, in 2013, Eifert secured a Reception NEP per target of 0.50 on 39 catches and 60 targets, which would have ranked just 18th among the 25 players this year (and was actually 25th out of 29 in 2013). However, Eifert scored only two touchdowns in his rookie year and accounted for just 10.8 percent of the Bengals' red zone targets, scoring once from inside the 20. Meanwhile, Gresham caught all four of his red zone targets and converted three for touchdowns.

The points here are that Gresham was inefficient overall despite a top-five red zone target share in 2014 and Eifert was still somewhat inefficient but was basically ignored in the red zone in 2013.

A healthy Green and Jones will eat up some red zone targets, yes, but Eifert, who compares well to the league's elite tight ends athletically, might be getting a bigger share of red zone targets. What's not to like?

A Verdict

There's no way to guarantee that Eifert will see as many snaps at tight end as Gresham did in 2014 (Gresham's 62.5 per game was tops on the offense behind Andy Dalton), but there's a big void to fill both at tight end and potentially in the red zone.

If you're looking for a high-upside tight end in best-ball leagues, then I think that the potential of Eifert is hard to overlook. If you're waiting for re-draft leagues, then you can probably key on Eifert as a late-round flier unless the buzz grows substantially by August.

If you're a Bengals fan, you might be seeing a breakout season from a potentially elite tight end in 2015.