Contract extension could make Bengals tight end Tyler Kroft a fantasy sleeper

Cincinnati Bengals, Fantasy Football

Tyler Eifert’s health is still in question making Tyler Kroft a potential fantasy sleeper this year.

Over three of the last four seasons (2014, 2016 and 2017), Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert has totaled 11 games played and 36 receptions due to multiple injuries. Tyler Kroft stepped up with 42 receptions in Eifert’s place last season, so it’s not too surprising he’s in line for a contract extension soon.

In mid-June, coming out of minicamp, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis suggested Eifert might not be ready for training camp as he apparently continues to battle the back issue that sidelined him last season. So Kroft might be in line for a substantial role right out of the gate this year, and a thus a prominent role in Cincinnati’s passing game.

But does that make him an automatic fantasy sleeper?

Kroft played all 16 games last season, but he only had one catch for five yards over the first two games when Eifert was active. Over those final 14 games he averaged 4.4 targets, 2.9 catches and 28.5 yards per game. Those obviously aren’t impressive numbers, so without seven touchdowns Kroft would not have been anywhere near the 15th-highest scoring tight end in ESPN leagues (default PPR scoring).

One of Kroft’s best games, six catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns (on a season-high eight targets) in Week 17, came when most fantasy owners couldn’t have benefited. Over the typical fantasy football playoffs, Week 14-16, he totaled three catches for four yards and put up a combined 3.4 fantasy points (ESPN PPR scoring).

If Eifert is available, he’ll be Cincinnati’s No. 1 tight end. But relying on him to even play half the season unscathed is a risky bet for fantasy owners and Kroft stands to become a popular waiver wire add.

Eifert had 52 receptions for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns when he was last healthy for most of a season (2015). That would be the catch and yardage ceiling for Kroft if he steps in as the Bengals’ primary tight end again this year, with 8-10 touchdowns a more realistic high-water range in that case.

Reports on Eifert’s health will be worth monitoring during training camp and the preseason, heading into when most drafts and auctions will be. If he’s in line to be ready for Week 1, Kroft won’t be worth drafting in fantasy leagues. But if there’s any doubt about Eifert’s status, Kroft will be a deep sleeper option for those that like to wait to draft a tight end.

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