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   Fantasy Outlook: Cincinnati Bengals

May 28, 2017

The Bengals post-season woes have been well documented. It has been literally decades since the team has won a playoff game. Under head coach Marvin Lewis' reign, the team has not only failed to win a win a playoff game -- but they have been blown out in every instance. What makes this all the more aggravating is that the team is stocked with talent and has qualified for the playoffs in each of the past four seasons. The 0-4 playoff run over these years has disguised the fact that this team has been VERY good in the regular season. From a fantasy perspective, of course, that is what really matters.

Quarterbacks

Andy Dalton epitomizes that Regular Season Warrior mentality that has made the Bengals such a paradox since he came into the league back in 2011. In fact the Bengals have qualified for the playoffs each year since Dalton has been with the team -- but they have won exactly zero playoff games. Moreover, Dalton has been dreadful in those playoff games. Blessed with a solid offensive line and plenty of talent at the skill positions around him -- remember, A.J. Green came out of that same 2011 draft class -- it is a valid question: have the Bengals been so successful in the regular season because of Dalton, or in spite of him?

Andy Dalton

Most Fantasy owners will pass on Andy Dalton because, well, he's Andy Dalton. In the past he was a very streaky Fantasy passer who would string together some big weeks and then disappoint. But last year there weren't any such streaks, occasionally posting some big games but also delivering less than 15 Fantasy points six times including a game he had minus-3 points. A tough schedule also hurts his cause, overshadowing the fact that he is the rare Fantasy quarterback who has quality weapons around him yet isn't considered trustworthy. Dalton is among the late-round quarterbacks you might check out on Draft Day, but we'd take a look at guys like Blake Bortles, Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick first.




Running Backs

Jeremy Hill

A strong finish to his rookie season has put Jeremy Hill in the Top 10 Fantasy running back conversation. But is he really worth investing a first round draft pick? That is the decision that fantasy owners must make. The big back out of LSU posted 20-plus touches in each of his last three games and five of his last nine, landing 10-plus Fantasy points in all of them. In fact, Hill had over 100 rush yards each time he had 20 carries. The Bengals figured out late in the year that they were better off leaning on their backs than giving Andy Dalton a ton of pass attempts from week to week, and it paid off with some big wins. Giovani Bernard will remain part of the rushing mix in Cincy, but Hill should be their top back and a candidate to get close to 275 carries this season. A tough schedule won't help Hill out much, but the likelihood of another good year is too much to ignore. Hill should be a late first-/early second-round pick in every draft this summer.

While Giovani Bernard lost his grip on being the Bengals' primary running back, he still has a very good role as their passing downs back. This doesn't mean he'll get a few touches here or there, either. Bernard averaged 12.5 touches per game last December while Jeremy Hill was in the thick of his breakout season. That's the new normal for Bernard as long as Hill is effective. It puts Bernard in the No. 3 running back discussion and a safe bet for at least six Fantasy points per week. It doesn't sound like much, but when you're looking for a decent running back in Round 6, especially in a PPR league, you'll find Bernard appealing.



Wide Receivers

Finishing as the 21st best wideout in Fantasy last season might make some people shy about drafting A.J. Green, but you shouldn't be one of them. He disappointed when it came to his final stats, but he effectively played in 11 games due to various injuries. If you average the stats from the 11 games he actually played in, he averaged 6.2 catches and 94.6 yards per game with a touchdown in better than half of his outings. That's better than the season-long averages for T.Y. Hilton and anyone on the Lions. So let's not rush to throw A.J. Green aside, especially since he's in a contract year and knows he'll have a case to be the highest-paid receiver in the game with a monster season. It may be true that Dalton-to-Green represents the most interceptions of any QB-to-WR target, but that fall-out is a problem for Dalton fantasy owners more than Green's. Bank on Green going off draft boards somewhere in the 2nd round a top 12 Fantasy receiver.

A.J. Green

Marvin Jones missed all of last season with foot and ankle ailments but should be ready for training camp, according to head coach Marvin Lewis. That means Jones will be in a competition for a starting job with Mohamed Sanu. It shouldn't take much for Jones to unseat Sanu as the No. 2 receiver in Cincinnati, a job he held while scoring 10 touchdowns in over 51 receptions in 2013. It remains to be seen if Jones still has the ability to play at a high level after being out of football for a year, but if it looks like he does, Fantasy owners can risk a late-round pick on him.

When he played as the No. 1 receiver in Cincinnati with A.J. Green sidelined or playing decoy, Mohamed Sanu was pretty good, posting 10-plus Fantasy points in three of those five games. Sanu also had some big moments when Green was healthy and was evolving into a reliable Fantasy option through the first half of last season until things went south and he started losing a lot of looks to Green, who really is the Bengals' best receiver. Sanu figures to fight for targets no matter what this season, but it doesn't help his case that he has to compete with Marvin Jones for playing time. We'd spend a late pick on Sanu in leagues with deep rosters.




Tight Ends

Tyler Eifert

A gruesome elbow injury in Week 1 of last season put Tyler Eifert on the shelf for the season, and shoulder surgery in December further paints the picture that Eifert is injury prone. Once a promising young talent with immense size, Eifert will be given yet another chance to contribute this season, but it might be his last. The tight end position is ripe with young, promising talent that isn't injury-prone, so Eifert might not make for the best late-round flier. Perhaps in the deepest of leagues we'll see Eifert get picked. Otherwise, if he makes a name for himself for good reasons this season, count on finding him on waivers.



Special Teams

Mike Nugent

Mike Nugent doesn't deviate much from the norm these days, as he put together another thoroughly pedestrian campaign in 2014. He converted 78.8 percent of his field-goal attempts and nailed each PAT, for his third 100-point season in four years.

He finished 19th in Fantasy scoring despite a pretty solid offense around him and doesn't have much upside as a late-round target on Draft Day. Unless you are in a very, very deep league, we strongly recommend that you look elsewhere for a fantasy kicker. There should be several options with considerably more upside in the final round of your fantasy draft.



Defense

Ravens Defense

Last season wasn't quite what we expected for the Bengals' defense, which dropped 20 spots from its No. 4 finish in 2013. Cincinnati was unable to generate any semblance of a pass rush, posting a league-low 20 sacks after racking up 43 in the previous season. Numerous factors contributed to this drop-off, including DE Michael Johnson's departure to Tampa, DT Geno Atkins' slow return from a torn ACL and an injury-riddled season for LB Vontaze Burfict. This year's edition isn't an every-week fantasy option, but there's enough talent to give Cincinnati streaming consideration.


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