Bengals Rookie Tight End Could Be ‘Sleeper’ Success Story

Tanner McLachlan

Getty University of Arizona tight end Tanner McLachlan.

The Cincinnati Bengals are looking for help wherever they can get it when it comes to catching passes.

One of those solutions might have been found in the sixth round of the 2024 NFL draft in tight end Tanner McLachlan (No. 194 overall). PFF’s Nick Baumgardner has McLachlan targeted as one of a group of possible “sleeper” rookies who could make an instant impact.

“The Bengals double dipped at TE on Day 3, also grabbing Iowa’s Erick All, an athletic and versatile player, in the fourth before getting McLachlan in the sixth,” Baumgardner wrote. “I actually liked McLachlan better but can see a situation where both guys make something happen. A former basketball player with reliable hands, McLachlan is really good off the ball and in the middle of the field after the catch.”

McLachlan’s Unusual Path to the NFL

McLachlan is one of the few NFL players to come out of Canada, playing high school football at Lethbridge Collegiate Institute in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, before spending four seasons at Division I FCS Southern Utah. He only had 15 receptions for 168 receiving yards from 2018 to 2021 but redshirted in 2018, missed the 2020 fall season due to the pandemic and sat out 2021 with a torn ACL.

McLachlan transferred to the University of Arizona in 2022 and played for the Wildcats for two seasons, with 34 receptions for 456 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns in 2022 and 45 receptions for 528 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2023 as he was named honorable mention All-Pac-12.

In just two seasons at Arizona, McLachlan’s 79 receptions broke Rob Gronkowski’s school career record for receptions by a tight end.

At the NFL combine, McLachlan checked in at 6-foot-5 and 244 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein had him projected as a 4th or 5th round pick.

“McLachlan is a slightly challenging evaluation, as his measurables and traits don’t really match the intangibles and effort he puts on tape,” Zierlein wrote. “He plays with the spirit of an in-line tight end and flashes what it takes to execute blocks, but he’s missing the mass and play strength for one to confidently project him as a pro blocker at this point. While McLachlan has short arms and average speed, he still finds ways to go get the football outside his frame and does whatever it takes to add yards after catch. There are boxes that go unchecked, but his ‘whatever it takes’ mentality is the kind of intangible that often turns prospects into pros.”


Who Will Start at Tight End for Bengals in 2024?

The Bengals currently have five tight ends listed on their roster including two 2024 draft picks in All and McLachlan, but it’s seven-year veteran Mike Gesicki who is topping the depth chart — for now.

Gesicki had over 700 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons with the Miami Dolphins in 2020 and 2021 but hasn’t had over 400 receiving yards in either of the last two seasons, including 29 receptions for 244 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns with the New England Patriots in 2024.

Gesicki was a second-round pick by the Dolphins in 2018 and signed a 1-year, $2.5 million contract with the Bengals in March 2024.

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