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If you love upside, the Cincinnati Bengals are the team for you. A.J. Green has a career 16-game average of 87-1,288-9. Joe Mixon is a former second-round pick with first-round talent and an improved offensive line. Tyler Eifert has scored 20 career touchdowns in 39 games. Even Andy Dalton has been a top-five Fantasy option before. And I haven’t even mentioned their first-round pick from a year ago, John Ross.

Yes, there’s plenty of upside on this roster. But it’s also easy to see where things have gone wrong. Eifert has played just 10 games since 2015 and he’s never played a 16-game season. As talented as Mixon is, he did just average 3.5 yards per carry over 178 carries. Dalton is as inconsistent as they come and just had arguably his worst year since he was a rookie.

The common denominator with a lot of last year’s struggles was an atrocious offensive line. The Bengals have gone to great lengths to improve that line, drafting Billy Price in the first round and trading for Cordy Glenn. Concerns about a rookie center aside, there is little doubt the Bengals line play should be better. Whether it’s actually good or not is another question. The answer to that question may just determine the Fantasy fate of Dalton and Mixon.

*Rankings expressed below are in terms of expected Fantasy points. This is a part of our actual Fantasy Football rankings but not a direct correlation to my rankings. Things like injury risk, upside, etc. factor into rankings but they’re not being talked about here. This is simply an expectation as the team is currently constructed.

PLAYER

EXPECTED FP

POS. RANK

EXPECTED PPR FP

POS. RANK

A.J. Green

187.4

#6

279.4

#7

Joe Mixon

159.1

#20

194

#19

Giovani Bernard

114.7

#40

163.7

#30

Tyler Eifert

80.5

#18

123

#19

Andy Dalton

299.1

#21

299.1

#21

Breaking down the touches

Bill Lazor took over the Bengals offense after Week 2 last year, but also had two year’s prior experience in Miami. It’s difficult to reconcile the three years. In his first year in Miami, the Dolphins were one of the fastest teams in the league, running over 1,100 plays. Last year, the Bengals barely ran 900. Part of that is because of how bad last year’s Bengals team was. I expect them to come in just under 1,000 plays this season. But if Lazor starts talking about speeding things up and playing fast, I could certainly see bumping that.

What has been consistent is Lazor’s offense has a pretty normal distribution of passes between receivers, tight ends and running backs. In fact, last year was his lowest target percentage for tight ends, at 16 percent, which makes sense when Tyler Kroft is your best option. If Eifert could return to full strength, he’ll get plenty of targets. There’s just reason to doubt that he will.

Bengals touches

Player

RuSHARE

RuATT

ReSHARE

TGT

REC

TD

Joe Mixon

55%

216

8%

44

35

7

Giovni Bernard

28%

110

12%

65

48

4

A.J. Green

0%

0

28%

152

91

9

Brandon LaFell

0%

0

16%

87

51

3

John Ross

0%

0

10%

54

27

3

Tyler Boyd

0%

0

10%

54

36

2

Tyler Eifert

0%

0

12%

65

42

6

Of note: 

  • For as long as Giovani Bernard is around I would not expect Mixon to earn a true workhorse role. Bernard should handle most of the third-down work and he’ll get a little bit of action in the running game as well.
  • Brandon LaFell is not going to stand in the way of the Ross or Boyd if either has a good preseason. Boyd’s value may have more to do with Eifert’s health as anything. The Bengals seem more likely to target him if they aren’t satisfied with their options at tight end.
  • A.J. Green turns 30 this year year and just posted a career low in catch rate and yards per game. I’m not saying he’s lost a step and I believe it had more to do with the team around him than anything else, but I’ll be watching him closely early in the season.

The Leftovers

Cody Core and  Kroft both flashed at times last year and could get another opportunity if Ross and Eifert struggle with availability again. Kroft doesn’t have much in the way of explosion, but Dalton loves to look at his tight end in the red zone. If Eifert is hurt before your Fantasy draft, Kroft becomes a low-end No. 2 tight end.

I was surprised when the Bengals took Mark Walton in the fourth round of the draft, but it sounds like they’re hoping he can become the Bernard replacement and they can let the veteran walk after 2018. Walton needs one injury to have a role in this offense and two to become someone everyone is looking at. For now, he’s a Dynasty stash who could start paying off as soon as 2019.

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