Safety, running back, linebacker, defensive end, cornerback and even wide receiver have been positions thrown out there as potential areas the Bengals could address with the No. 21 overall pick.
Why not throw tight end into the mix as well?
That's exactly what Geoff Hobson and Dave Lapham did in Bengals.com's latest mock draft. With the No. 21 overall pick, they mocked Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert to Cincinnati and provided the following reasoning, according to Lapham:
They're married to Gresham and Gresham is a good blocker as well as a guy that can make a big play. But you add Eifert you're getting a hell of an athlete. He's not a blocker, but he's a great receiver. He gives you another threat. All you have to do is look at New England with (Rob) Gronkowski and (Aaron) Hernandez and what they've been able to do with athletic tight ends.
Before fans start a riot over the notion of drafting a tight end so early, keep in mind two things—this is one of the worst classes in years, the talent from the top 15 all the way down to about 40 has minimal difference.
With that first thought in mind, remember that Cincinnati has two second-round picks thanks to the ripoff that was the Carson Palmer trade.
Obviously, the Bengals have bigger needs in other areas, but a luxury pick at tight end wouldn't be so bad. Landing the best tight end in the draft class and having him line up with starter Jermaine Gresham would be a heck of a combination.
For example, Eifert doesn't even have to line up at tight end. He can split out as a wide receiver, especially in the red zone considering he is 6'5", and opposing defenses have no chance of stopping him while also attempting to focus on Gresham and a guy named A.J. Green.
Of course, the Bengals already have a youngster at tight end in second-year player Orson Charles out of Georgia. Charles flashed in limited playing time last year, but his presence doesn't mean the Bengals shouldn't address the position in the first round.
There's an outside chance Gresham falters, or an injury occurs. Having three quality tight ends on the roster is nothing but another strength for one of the NFL's youngest and rising rosters already.
Also remember the offense the Bengals have installed with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's version of the West Coast. It thrives on quick, short completions, so having another big body like Eifert is nothing but a great thing.
As many Bengals fans would probably like to forget, quarterback Andy Dalton struggled last season. Part of the issue was Gresham—he dropped eight passes last season, which was one of the highest tallies in the league at his position (per ProFootballFocus, subscription required).
Another issue was injuries. Dalton was never fortunate enough to have receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones on the field at the same time, and this also helped create a lack of a reliable option in the passing game.
Tight end would obviously be a luxury pick, but at what cost? Safety and running back seem to be the biggest needs, but the positions are so deep Cincinnati could find starters in the second round anyway, such as Jonathan Cyprien and Giovani Bernard.
The same can be said for cornerback, if the team wants to take one at all. Leon Hall, Dre Kirkpatrick and the recently re-signed Adam Jones and Terence Newman (per NFL.com) make up nice depth at the position already, not to mention names like Brandon Ghee and Shaun Prater waiting in the wings for a chance.
It's important to note that the Bengals' options become immensely reduced at taking any of the mentioned positions here if the team cannot get right tackle Andre Smith under contract.
According to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the deal with Smith could be wrapped up soon. It makes sense considering Smith has yet to even make a visit with another team since the start of free agency, but the sooner the better for Cincinnati in order to open up its options in the first round.
One option, albeit likely not a popular one, is tight end. However, if Bengals fans want to see Dalton take the next step and not start the search over at quarterback next offseason, it may not be that horrible of an idea.
Giving Dalton another weapon such as Eifert, which would essentially give him two No. 1 tight ends to complement Green, would likely provide a massive boost to his play while creating mismatches all over the field.
Again, it's smokescreen season and next to impossible to tell what Marvin Lewis and Co. are thinking, but adding an elite prospect at tight end has to be something on the team's radar, especially if one is the highest-rated player left on their board when it's their turn at No. 21.
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