Tyler Kroft arrived at Rutgers in 2011 as a 210-pound wide receiver.
"He was a little slim guy coming out of high school," said college teammate Mo Sanu, now a Bengals wide receiver.
The 6-6 tight end says he steadily put on about 10 pounds a season in his four years at Rutgers.
"I think I can get up to 255-pounds easily," said Kroft. "I'm about 250 right now. I think I can comfortably put on at least another five pounds and still be able to maintain my speed."
"He's a very disciplined player and person," said Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood. "He's done an excellent job with his diet and in the weight room to build himself into a 250-pound tight end. He's still growing into his body although he's got great size right now. I think two or three years down the road he'll be an even better player than he is today."
But after drafting him with the first of two third round picks, the Bengals will be looking for Kroft to contribute right away as a tight end compliment to Tyler Eifert following the anticipated departure of Jermaine Gresham as a free agent.
"They're getting the complete package," said Flood. "He's got tremendous ball skills and the ability to run after the catch. But he's also built himself into being an in-line tight end. When Tyler got to us at Rutgers he had never put his hand on the ground – he was strictly a receiver in high school. But he's done a tremendous job over the last four years of building his body and really becoming an excellent blocker for us as well."
Kroft played under four offensive coordinators in his Rutgers career. In 2013, he was the team's leading receiver under Ron Prince, but after Prince left to become the tight ends coach for the Detroit Lions, Kroft was primarily asked to block under new coordinator Ralph Friedgen.
"I want to ultimately be a three-down tight end in the NFL, and I know blocking is a big part of that," said Kroft. "I think having the experience with both tight end styles really helped me."
"I think he's exactly what you want at tight end," said Flood. "He'll be able to play on first and second down, but he'll be a real weapon and a mismatch on third down."
Sanu and Kroft were teammates for one season at Rutgers and often did extra drills together.
"I would always keep Tyler around after practice because he's one of those kids that loves to work hard," said Sanu. "We always did ball drills and footwork drills just to get better little by little as we left the field.
"The Bengals asked me about him (before the draft) to see what kind of person he is. I told them that he is one of us. He's the type of guy you want in your locker room. He's a great kid, hard-working, loves the game, and will be a great fit for us."
Marvin Lewis called Kroft "the best of this year's tight end prospects," and tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes came away highly impressed after getting to know the 22-year-old at his pro day.
"When we visited and had an opportunity just to talk, just sitting there talking football and listening to him articulate was just fun to be around," said Hayes. "He loves to play football, he has a good understanding of the game, and he's a personable kid."
"I got a great message from (Bengals offensive line coach) Paul Alexander who I've known for many years," said Flood. "He said, 'We took your guy and we're excited about it.' I said, 'I'm excited about it too because you took the right guy.'
"Mo Sanu was a tremendous player in our program but an even better person and I think in time, the Bengals will say the same thing about Tyler Kroft."
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