Overall outlook: The team representing the Queen City may not be celebrating a royal baby, but their draft class is full of fresh faces that will improve a team ranked 22nd in total offense last year. Andy Dalton’s new toys include: Tyler Eifert (TE), Giovani Bernard (RB), Rex Burkhead (RB), and Cobi Hamilton (WR). If you had any of those guys on your roster last year in a fantasy college football league, you had no problem bringing home the title.
Bye week: 12
Quarterback: Andy Dalton
All the stats from his rookie to sophomore season improved. Dalton attempted 12 more passes, connected to his targets 29 more times (which improved his completion percentage 4.2 percent), threw for 271 more yards, and recorded seven more passing touchdowns. Yet, Dalton only ranked 13th among QBs in fantasy points (standard scoring leagues). On the plus side, he was within two points from cracking the top 12. Point being, in a 12-team league, Dalton should be one of the final quarterbacks drafted to start for your team.
Running back: BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Cincy ranked 18th in rushing offense at 109.1 yards per game in 2012. So, it’s difficult to throw my support towards "The Law Firm." When it comes to fantasy points he landed 22nd out of all running backs with Ahmad Bradshaw and Danny Woodhead keeping him company. It’s hard to imagine that Green-Ellis would lose his starting job outright early on, even with a talented rookie waiting in the wings. Green-Ellis could be your RB2, but keep your eyes glued to the guy next in line.
Running back: Giovani Bernard
In his two seasons at North Carolina, Bernard was a machine: 2,481 rushing yards, 852 receiving yards, and 33 total TDs. With how poor the Bengals’ ground attack was in 2012, I think Bernard will have plenty of opportunities to show his worth, and possibly end 2013 with the starting gig in hand.
Wide receiver: A.J. Green
After just his second season in the NFL, Green found himself behind Calvin Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Marshall, and Wes Welker for the NFL-lead in targets. Dalton looked in his direction 32.2 percent of the time with Andrew Hawkins finishing second among his receiving corps (15.7 percent). In 2011, Green was 17th in fantasy points scored among wide receivers and last year climbed to third beating out Dez Bryant by a hair.
Wide receiver: Mohamed Sanu
Surgery to repair a stress fracture put an end to Sanu’s rookie campaign. I had higher hopes on his production, but when A.J. Green is receiving so many targets the letdown was less painful. Bengals’ fans will remember that Sanu launched a 73-yard touchdown pass to Green on the first play from scrimmage, giving him a touchdown pass before his first touchdown reception.
Wide receiver: Andrew Hawkins
Always looking out for my fellow University of Toledo alum, Hawkins’ numbers increased right along with Andy Dalton’s and A.J. Green’s. His targets jumped from 34 to 80, which led to an increase in receptions (23 to 51), receiving yards (263 to 533), and touchdowns (0 to 4). The speedy slot receiver will continue to find holes in the defense and earn attention from his quarterback when Green is double, and triple, covered.
Tight end: Jermaine Gresham
I’m not too proud to admit that Gresham exceeded my expectations in 2012. Honestly, I was banking on Orson Charles stealing some playing time last year. This season, I think Tyler Eifert will supplant Gresham at some point. It’s not that he’s a terrible tight end – Gresham ranked 10th among tight end fantasy scorers in 2012. So, it’s not like he’s underproducing. I wish I had a better grasp of Gresham’s inability to become a top-tier tight end besides saying, “He doesn’t pass my eye test,” but I can’t. Target Gresham in later rounds if you don’t get Jimmy Graham and Co. early, but also be aware that the Bengals spent their first round pick on a tight end.
Placekicker: Mike Nugent
“Nuuuge” finished last season ranked 29th amid fantasy kickers – nothing to write home about. In 2012, Nugent injured his calf in practice and was quickly replaced by Josh Brown, who finished the year as the starter. However, Brown is now with the New York Giants and Nugent retains the job as starter. Frankly, he shouldn’t be drafted in 2013.
The biggest transaction in the offseason for the Bengals was signing the archrival James Harrison. The defense ranked sixth last year in team defense and fifth in fantasy points. Should-be-eventual-NFL-head-coach, Mike Zimmer, has new signees (Harrison and Aaron Maybin) to help round out his linebackers in the 4-3 defense. Cincinnati’s fantasy defense is a great sleeper pick in the last round when Chicago, Houston, Seattle, and San Francisco are off the board.