Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire
The Cincinnati Bengals have some solid fantasy potential on their team. Let’s take a look at what they can offer:
Andy Dalton (QB2/3)
I’m not a big Andy Dalton fan, personally. Now, to be perfectly honest, I think Dalton’s poor year last year was more a result of the team’s bad offensive line than Dalton himself, but let’s not forget that he ended the year with a -8.7% DVOA (worse than Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, and only slightly better than Josh McCown). Generally speaking though, Dalton was basically what you’d expect from Andy Dalton—just worse. He’s a guy who can make some big-time throws but also tosses up some pretty dumb YOLO balls for whatever reason that ultimately lead to turnovers. If the Bengals’ offensive line is better this year, Dalton could be a mid-level QB2, he certainly has the weapons, but as it stands, the upside isn’t all that great.
Joe Mixon (RB2)
There’s absolutely no denying Mixon’s talent—we saw it in college and we’ve seen it in the NFL.
Similar to Dalton, Mixon was a victim of the Bengals poor offensive line play last year. He finished the season with a 1.0% DVOA (good for top-20 in the league) and 722 effective yards compared to 606 standard yards. He’s talented, but he’s going to be limited by the Bengals’ line and however much Giovani Bernard eats into his time. Still, his upside is significant, and if you came back from the future and told me that Joe Mixon finished the season as a top-10 running back, I’d say “how did you figure out time travel?” and then I’d say “I’m not surprised at all.”
Giovani Bernard (RB4)
Speaking of Bernard, let’s not forget that he exists, and he’s still pretty good. I’m convinced that if he were given the full-time starting gig in just about any offense, he’d be a top-20 running back. He finished last year with a 3.4% DVOA (better than Mixon), which was good for 16th in the league. He also saw a fair amount of volume as a receiver, seeing 60 passes sent his way, though he finished with a -10.3% DVOA, which isn’t great. As it stands, Bernard has some appeal in PPR leagues but serves as merely a handcuff to Mixon. Were Mixon to go down, however, Bernard would be very interesting.
A.J. Green (WR1)
He’s A.J. Green, he’s one of the most talented receivers in the entire NFL, I think you and I both know what to expect from him. It doesn’t matter who’s throwing him the ball, whether it’s Andy Dalton or a blind hobo, A.J. Green is going to produce, he’s absurdly talented and can beat just about any defensive back in the NFL.
Here’s something that might surprise you though—Green finished last year with a -6.4% DVOA, good for 63rd in the NFL among receivers with at least 50 receptions. Still, he finished with 1,063 effective yards compared to 1,086 standard yards, so much of what he did last year is legit. He’s going to get loads of volume in the Bengals’ offense, so you can easily expect WR1 value from him.
Tyler Eifert (TE2)
If you told me today, if you guaranteed me, that Tyler Eifert was going to stay healthy all year, then I would likely rank him as a TE1. But you can’t guarantee that, in fact you’d be safer guaranteeing that he’s going to be hurt most of the year, and as a result, he’s a dart-throw in fantasy. Sure, he’s got loads of upside, let’s not forget that in 2015 he finished the year with 52 catches for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns. But since then, he’s played in a grand total of 10 games with 33 catches, which means you really can’t rely on him in fantasy.
Offensive Honorable Mentions
Couple players worth mentioning here. First, there’s John Ross, the Bengals speedy first-round pick. We don’t really know what he’s going to look like this year or how involved in the offense he’s going to be, but he’s an interesting guy as a flier at the end of drafts. The guy is obviously really talented.
There’s also Tyler Kroft, who will likely be the guy in the (inevitable) event that Eifert gets hurt. The Bengals have utilized the tight end a lot in the past, so Kroft could have some deeper-league value if and when Eifert gets hurt.
I’ve mentioned the Bengals’ offensive line a few times already and it’s worth mentioning that they were pretty bad last year. They were pretty solid at keeping their running back from getting stuffed at the line but were bottom of the league in open field yards, which are carries in which a running back earns more than 10 yards. They also weren’t particularly good in pass protection, with a 7.2% adjusted sack rate, good for 20th-best in the league. Drafting Billy Price as their starting center should certainly help, as was signing Cordy Glenn, but that line still needs work, and it’s going to make or break this Bengals offense.
While you may not see it from the statistics, the Bengals have a pretty talented defensive squad. On the defensive line, they’ve got Geno Atkins who was one of the best linemen in football last year, ending the year with 10 sacks, 10 hits, and 50 hurries. Alongside Atkins is Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson, the former of whom was excellent last year. We’ll see what Carl Lawson ends up doing, but he’s got a ton of talent as well, which means this pass rush could be one of the best, if not the best, in the NFL. I don’t anticipate their run defense being nearly as good as their pass rush, but Atkins and Vontaze Burfict will still make life hard for running backs, as will the newly-added Preston Brown.
While the secondary isn’t quite as good as the Bengals’ front-seven, it’s still quite solid, riding on William Jackson III who was fantastic last year, memorably covering Antonio Brown last year in two games and limiting him to zero catches with four pass breakups. While Dre Kirkpatrick isn’t great as a second cornerback, the Bengals also have Darqueze Dennard as a nickel cornerback who should be solid. Releasing George Iloka and replacing him with Jessie Bates certainly doesn’t help their secondary in the least, but at the very least, Shawn Williams is there at the strong safety position and should be solid.