As we inch closer to the start of the regular season -- and to fantasy draft parties -- we're breaking down the fantasy projections this week for the Cincinnati Bengals' top players. We continue with the tight ends, and a look at what Tyler Eifert will need to do in 2016 to build upon his monster fantasy year in 2015.
ESPN Fantasy Projection: 684 yards, 6 TDs
Over or under: There is a lot of uncertainty about Eifert as he continues rehabbing from a May ankle surgery. The Bengals remain optimistic they could get him back in time for the start of the regular season, but there's still a chance he ends up missing a game or two -- or more -- once September rolls around. Such uncertainty could throw a wrench into long-term fantasy projections regarding him. Still, assuming he makes it through a full season, ESPN's Fantasy yards projection appears to be right in line with where he could be, if not slightly higher. As the No. 2 pass-catcher in the Bengals' offense last season behind A.J. Green, Eifert emerged as a true option in the seam, where he consistently picked up chunks of yards, leading to his total of 615. He was also an efficient red-zone target, where 11 of his 13 touchdowns came from (Eifert only had one pass thrown to him last season from inside the red zone that didn't end with him in the end zone). Based on how well the Bengals' first-team offense moved -- without Eifert, mind you -- in Friday's preseason opener, expect the unit to end up inside the 20 often this season. Once that happens, Eifert's 6-foot-6 size makes him a logical go-to option. For those reasons, take the over on Eifert's fantasy touchdown projection, even if he misses a game or two.
Who else could see time: Eifert's current replacement, Tyler Kroft, also is injured this preseason, although the Bengals are significantly more optimistic he'll be back before Week 1. He definitely will contribute as a receiver during any weeks Eifert misses, and he could be a part of the Bengals' plans even after the Pro Bowl starter makes it back. Two-tight end sets featuring a combination of Eifert, Kroft and C.J. Uzomah could ultimately make the Bengals productive from the tight end position this season.