Way back on March 29, Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham made the pick for the Bengals.com Media Mock Draft and came up with Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert. He was salivating then and he's salivating now.
"They're married to (Jermaine) Gresham and Gresham is a good blocker as well as a guy that can make a big play," Lapham said four weeks ago. "But you add Eifert and 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."
On Thursday night, Lapham got his man.
"The more, the merrier. I think it helps (Jermaine) Gresham. I think it helps (A.J.) Green. I think it helps everybody," Lapham said after making the call on radio. "The versatility of Gresham, the versatility of Eifert (and Eifert has shown more versatility than Gresham), it's going to dictate coverages and defenses. If you split out both tight ends and put A.J. in the slot and put him in motion, it's hard to double him. It's another way to get favorable matchups for A.J. Green.
"I saw (Eifert) line up in a ton of different spots and he always seemed to make the contested catch. You see what the Patriots have done with two tight ends. You see what the Ravens have done with two tight ends. It's working. It fits a guy like Andy Dalton, a rhythm passer and the tight end is a quarterback's best friend because the targets are big and the coverages are usually simple."
Gresham has two years left on his contract, he's still the starter, and Lapham thinks both guys can be productive together like Gronkowski and Hernandez. But he also notes that if there are days like the one in Houston in the playoffs when the inconsistent Gresham struggled, then Eifert is an answer.
"No question they got better on offense," Lapham said.
Most of the national pundits appeared to agree. Although Pete Prisco gave it a C, his CBSSports.com colleague Rob Rang gave it a B-plus. NFL.com's Around the League Editor Gregg Rosenthal said, Dalton and Green "must be smiling," and SI.com gave it a B-plus, calling it "a savvy pick" that can get the Bengals over the postseason hump.
NO REACH: The draft room gave no word if right tackle Andre Smith is any closer to a deal as the club broke late Thursday night from the first-round news conference. And true to their word, the Bengals didn't reach because they didn't have Smith. They had a chance to take Florida State tackle Menelik Watson at No. 21 and passed.
We may not have a better idea Friday in the second round, where the Bengals have two picks. It would seem that's where the Bengals need to start looking to fill their needs at running back and safety, although Watson is still on the board, and if they take a tackle in the second round then we have our answer.
But to say the second round is fertile ground for running backs is the major understatement of this draft. For the first time since John F. Kennedy's ground game ruled the White House, every back is still available after round one and the Bengals are picking fifth Friday as the Carson Palmer trade keeps giving even though he's been traded again.
And the teams picking ahead of the Bengals—the Jaguars, 49ers, Eagles, Lions—don't look to be actively in the market for a back. Still, the Jags could be looking with Maurice Jones-Drew in the final year of his deal. If anyone is trading up, it is most likely to get a quarterback.
And if the Bengals are going purely off their board instead of need, there are some heavy hitters still out there not running backs, according to various mocks. Such as inside backers Manti Te'o—Eifert's Notre Dame teammate—and LSU's Kevin Minter, as well as Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen, Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien, and SMU defensive end Margus Hunt.
But the Bengals also get two more picks Friday, their own picks at 53 in the second and 84th in the third.