Fantasy Football Team Preview: Cincinnati Bengals
MAY 23, 2014 2:37p ET
Training Camp Update (8/11)
Andy Dalton signed his new contract extension early in the week and then hit the field for one series against the Chiefs. He chucked up a deep ball to A.J. Green - who snuck behind the secondary - for a clean 53-yard pass and catch.
Hue Jackson's offense attempted 31 passes and 32 rushes against the Chiefs where defense was optional. Rookie Jeremy Hill rushed six times for 36 yards (6.0 YPR) as most pundits still believe he'll bump BenJarvus Green-Ellis for RB2 / GL carries this season.
Oh, and Fantex is offering shares of Mohamed Sanu stock for $10 / share. I'm selling, thank you.
The two most important items for fantasy football owners to be aware of are the Bengals’ offensive coordinator who turned Andy Dalton into a league-leading fantasy quarterback and the Bengals' defensive coordinator who turned the Bengals into a top-five defense and held the opposition to 19 points-per-game are both gone.
Marvin Lewis remains in charge of the show, but expect more offensive balance and a slight regression on defense in 2014.
BYE Week: 4
Quarterback: Andy Dalton
Jay Gruden molded Dalton into the quarterback you watched last season and it helped Gruden earn a head coaching gig with the Redskins. “The Red Rifle” finished the season with five games where he racked up 30-or-more fantasy points including two during Weeks 14-16 (playoffs). However, of those fantasy football quarterbacks who finished ranked inside the Top 10 in fantasy points scored, Dalton tossed the most interceptions with 20.
You’re playing with fire if you elect to draft Dalton as your starting fantasy quarterback based on 2013 production as Gio Bernard has been vocal in recent days explaining how the offense is more up-tempo during Hue Jackson’s OTA’s and the rushing game’s goal is to open up the passing game in 2014 – opposite the 2013 scheme.
Running Back: Gio Bernard
No offense to Jay Gruden, but Bernard (16th in fantasy points scored among fellow running backs in 2013) could not be in a better position for a sophomore surge than with Jackson as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator.
Jackson was last offensive coordinator for the Raiders back in 2010. Oakland’s offense ranked sixth in the NFL in points per game (25.6) and Darren McFadden produced the best fantasy season of his career. Run DMC carried the ball 223 times for 1,157 yards (5.2 YPC) with seven touchdowns and 47 receptions for over 500 yards with three more scores.
Now, Bernard is not built like McFadden, but the rookie out of LSU, Jeremy Hill, carries similar measurements. Despite a RBBC all but inevitable in Cincinnati, Bernard’s point-per-reception league value is worthy of an early-second round fantasy pick. In standard leagues, Bernard will still come off the board in the second round.
Running Back: BenJarvus Green-Ellis
For those familiar with Green-Ellis’ early work, “The Law Firm,” was well-known for holding onto the pigskin. Through his first four seasons – 510 carries – BGE did not fumble as a member of the New England Patriots. He’s fumbled five times (lost four) the last two seasons. This isn’t a condemnation of his fantasy football value – it’s quite small.
However, the 3.4 yards per rush he averaged last season was a career low. He only received 29 rushes inside the red zone last season and 53.7 percent of the touches (20th in NFL). So, take 29 and divide by 16 games and ask yourself: Do less than two red zone carries per game with Jeremy Hill breathing down his neck, provide Green-Ellis any fantasy value this season? I don’t think so.
Wide Receiver: A.J. Green
Despite Jay Gruden’s departure and a more concentrated effort to balance rush and pass offenses, Green will remain a top five fantasy receiver. I do, however, expect a slight regression in receiving yards after his stats increased in each of his first three seasons. Green saw over 32 percent of Andy Dalton’s red zone targets, fourth-most in the NFL and the reason he’ll remain a secure second round selection.
Wide Receiver: Marvin Jones
Following his instant fantasy classic against the Jets in which he caught eight passes on eight targets for 122 yards with four touchdowns, Jones caught 27 passes for 343 yards (43 YPG) with three touchdowns the final eight games of the season. His three touchdowns did come in Weeks 14, 15 and 17 (fantasy playoff time). Perhaps if Jay Gruden was still in town Jones would be worthy of a 13th-round flier, but not at the moment.
Wide Receiver: Mohamed Sanu
Finished with 455 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 2013. Again, with no Gruden, Sanu’s fantasy ceiling is pretty low.
Tight End: Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert
The tight end by committee received nearly an even amount of targets in 2013. Gresham saw 66 passes and Eifert saw 59. However, from a fantasy perspective the duo fall short in value when the ball sits inside the red zone. Based on red zone target percentage provided by RotoWire, Gresham ranked below guys like Ben Watson and Jeff Cumberland, while Eifert trailed Mychal Rivera and Logan Paulsen. More than 12 fantasy tight ends rank ahead of the two options in the Bengals’ offense.
Rookies: Jeremy Hill
Aside from his widely publicized sucker punch caught on cell phone video (right), LSU’s Jeremy Hill finished his brief collegiate career on a high note with over 1,400 yards, 16 touchdowns and nearly seven yards per rush for the Bayou Bengals. With a second-round Draft investment on Hill, expect him to earn plenty of between-the-tackles touches. His 6-foot-1, 220-pound frame is prepared to absorb some punshinment and as mentioned above push BenJarvus to the sidelines or unemployment line.
He'll come off draft boards in the fifth / sixth rounds.
Kicker: Mike Nugent
The former Ohio State Buckeye finished 24th in fantasy points scored among fellow kickers. He connected on 18-22 field goals with four from behind 50 yards. Nuge was 52-53 on extra points.
Team Defense (DST)
Mike Zimmer’s - now the Vikings' head coach - defense ranked fifth against the rush and fifth against the pass last season. The Bengals’ DST finished with 139 fantasy points (11 fumble recoveries, 43 sacks and 20 INTs) – sixth in the NFL.
Here’s some other defensive stats from Bengals’ reporter Kevin Goheen’s feature on FS Ohio: The defensive line accounted for 29 1/2 of the 43 sacks the Cincinnati defense produced last season. The Bengals coaching staff also credited its defenders with 118 total pass breakups (official NFL stats gave the Bengals 96 breakups, tied with Philadelphia for the fifth most in the league). Defensive backs in coverage will get the majority of those breakups but the defensive line knocked down 25 passes, including 10 by Carlos Dunlap and nine by Johnson.
I still believe the Bengals should be one of the top 12 fantasy defenses selected on draft day.