At the start of the season, many fantasy writers and players were excited about the Bengals Tyler Eifert. Coming into the season at 100 percent, he was a potential beneficiary if Andy Dalton bounced back from a disappointing 2016. Unfortunately, the Bengals started so slowly that offensive coordinator Ken Zampese was let go and replaced by Bill Lazor. I wrote that Eifert could be one of the big winners after this appointment, given his past use of TEs with the Dolphins. There has just been one small fly in the ointment…Eifert hasn’t played a snap since Week 2.
Eagle-eyed observers may have noticed, however, that there has still been a Tyler at TE for the Bengals in their last two games. This would be third-year player Tyler Kroft, the 85th player selected in the 2015 NFL draft. With the date of Eifert’s return unknown, even to the player himself, it appears Kroft could be the guy for some time. But who is Kroft, and should fantasy owners even care?
The Early Years
A three year player at Rutgers, Tyler Kroft played in 34 games for the Scarlet Knights. He only caught 70 passes for 901 yards, and 43 of those catches came in his 2013 sophomore season.
Let’s be honest, these are not the strongest set of comps. Nevertheless, the Bengals had Kroft as the top TE on their board and used the 85th overall selection to make him the third TE selected. His blocking has been one of the key factors in keeping him on the field, a talent that noted film guru Greg Cosell was very complimentary of prior to the draft. In his first two seasons with the Bengals, he played in 30 games. He saw 27 targets over this span, reeling in 21 of them for receptions with 221 yards and a single touchdown.
2017 and the Bill Lazor Effect
Despite starting the first two games of the season, Tyler Kroft played on just 19.7 percent and 45.3 percent of the offensive snaps in these games. He was targeted just once, reeling in his sole look in Week 1 for five yards. However, since Bill Lazor assumed the mantle of offensive coordinator, Kroft has played on 98.4 percent and 82.8 percent of the teams offensive plays. He has seen 20 percent of the total team targets, with only A.J. Green’s 36 percent ahead of him.
Unlike his draft comps, this is not bad company to be keeping.
Tyler Kroft has seen heavy red zone usage under Lazor, which is to be expected given Lazor’s track record. Kroft has 33 percent of the team RZ targets over the last two games, with two receptions for two touchdowns. Both came against the Browns in Week 4.
Despite initial success, I am not going to suggest that you rush out and make Tyler Kroft a waiver wire priority. I don’t think it would be too difficult to get him anyway, given that he is available in 99.8 percent of ESPN leagues.1 However, he could offer some streamable weeks in the games to come. As of now, he has five future matchups against teams in the top 11 in terms of fantasy points allowed to TEs, with a run of the Jaguars, Titans, Broncos, and Browns between Weeks 9 and 12. That’s the fourth, 11th, seventh and fifth most welcoming teams all in a row. However, he has games against the stifling Bills and Steelers either side of a Week 6 bye.
If Eifert does not return to action soon, Tyler Kroft is certainly a player to have on your emergency list. And who knows, he may end up as one of my recommended Weekly streamers somewhere down the line.
- As of 2:30 pm 10.02.17 (back)