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Cincinnati Bengals: 2014 Fantasy Football Analysis & Team Outlook


 

What can we expect from the Bengals in 2014?

Offseason Acquisitions – N/A

No Longer on the Roster – WR Andrew Hawkins

Coaching Changes – New Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson

It’s a bit strange when a franchise doesn't sign a single noteworthy free agent on the offensive side of the ball, but that’s precisely the type of offseason the Cincinnati Bengals have had. There are some minor personnel changes that could potentially possess some fantasy impact, but the important thing to remember is that the Cincinnati offense maintained all of its key components.


AndyDaltonQuarterbacks

It’s possible that Andy Dalton is the least flashy quarterback in all of fantasy, but the truth is that he actually finished well inside the top ten at the position in most formats. What's unusual about that is chances are he wasn't an every-week starter in your league. Dalton exceeded expectations as a fantasy player, given that no one had him ranked inside the top ten or twelve at the position heading into the 2013 season. The same could be said for this year, as guys like Nick Foles, Russell Wilson, Tony Romo and Jay Cutler have been receiving more rub than Dalton. Dalton’s stats, however, do deserve some praise and are worth considering. Here is how he finished 2013: eighth in both attempts and completions, seventh in yards and third in touchdowns. That’s pretty incredible for a guy no one seems to want to trot out as an every-week starter.

The problem isn’t really Andy Dalton, it’s the guys ranked ahead of him. The other quarterbacks mentioned previously, as well as passers we expect to have bounceback years like Robert Griffin III, Tom Brady, and Matt Ryan, are simply more reliable options. That’s not to say Dalton won’t be serviceable once again; it just means you’re more likely to win your league with a “good” RGIII year than a “good” Andy Dalton year. Another important element to keep in mind is the overall ranking: Dalton is well outside the top 10 at the position, which means that if you want him, you can probably draft him late without a problem. On the contrary, if you really want Colin Kaepernick, you’re going to have to ante up a substantially higher pick. The best way to go about rostering Dalton is to wait on quarterback and grab two guys late. If you take, say, Nick Foles in the 10th round, go ahead and grab Andy Dalton in case Foles doesn’t repeat his 2013 performance. Another strategy to consider would be to take him as a backup for injury-prone guys like Robert Griffin III and Jay Cutler. Basically, Dalton is a backup QB, and a safe one at that. He should also possess some serious value in a two-QB league if you're in that sort of thing.

Wide Receivers

A.J. Green has proven that he is as safe as they come in terms of fantasy wide receivers. Ever since his breakout rookie season, Green has been touted as a top-tier receiver, and rightfully so. He finished the year in the top ten in targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, all of which are easily repeatable for a player of his caliber. The important thing to reiterate is Green’s safety. Most rankers have him slotted as an easy second rounder, and that’s absolutely where he should be. Not only do you want value that early in the draft, but you also want players you know can produce. There shouldn't be anything holding you back from taking a top-tier receiver in the middle of the second round this year, given all the uncertainty at running back, and A.J. Green is definitely a selection to consider.

The number two receiver spot has always been an intriguing position given the effectiveness of the Cincinnati offense. With Andrew Hawkins off to Cleveland, the only real threats at the moment are Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. The likelier of the two is Jones, given the fact the he has already shown us his explosive playmaking ability. I’m sure fantasy owners remember his insane 122 yards and four touchdowns against the New York Jets last season, as well some other highlight plays of his. Sanu, on the other hand, hasn't really shown us much of anything. His stats are average at best, grabbing just two touchdowns last season with his highest yardage total coming in at just 68. Jones may be worth a lottery ticket pick in a deeper league or a three-WR format, but until we see one of these guys break through, it’s hard to justify stashing either of them under standard rules.

Running Backs

Giovani Bernard was a hot commodity heading into the 2013 season given his sleeper status. He pretty much lived up to that hype as and became a usable RB2 despite technically splitting the workload with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Bernard’s stat totals don’t exactly jump off the page, but given how weak the running back position is these days, they’re enough. Added to the mix this year is freshly drafted running back Jeremy Hill out of LSU. This was a surprising pick during the draft, especially since he was taken in the second round. Second rounders aren’t typically drafted to be backups so it’s a little troublesome for Bernard supporters. The likely and most talked about scenario is that Green-Ellis will eventually be released and the Bengals will continue to use two running backs with Bernard and Hill. This would be totally fine for Bernard, as he has already proven he can produce in that environment but it would be a huge boost for Hill. If that were to happen, Hill would catapult up draft boards simply due to the opportunity. That said, Hill is still a rookie and like all rookies, we have to see him actually do it first. The concern that Bernard loses some touches is a legitimate one, but it shouldn’t be enough to scare you off. New offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has indicated he would like the team to be more run-oriented, which is good news for Bernard and whoever else is playing second fiddle. And in case you were wondering, Hue Jackson’s job title was promoted to offensive coordinator after serving as their running backs coach-- that in itself should be reassurance that whichever backs end up in the regular rotation, they will be fantasy relevant.

Rookies and Tight Ends

The aforementioned Jeremy Hill is really the only guy worth mentioning here. He’s definitely worth a pick up in a dynasty league and should be considered a late bench stash if/when Green-Ellis gets released. Even if the Law Firm ends up sticking around, it’s likely the Bengals show their hand in the preseason and have Hill take over as the number two back. He could be useful and end up a solid sleeper.

I hate to bore you here, but there genuinely isn’t much else to see on the Bengals roster from the rookie class.  Cincinnati selected rookie wide receiver James Wright out of Louisiana State in the seventh round, and that’s basically all you need to know. Barring an unbelievably surprising breakout performance, Wright is at best the fourth option at receiver behind Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. The Bengals also drafted Texas A&M quarterback A.J. McCarron, but unless something horrible happens to Andy Dalton, you can pretty much ignore that completely.

As for tight ends, it would be nice to see second-year player Tyler Eifert step up into every-week use, but as long as Jermaine Gresham is still around, that’s unlikely to occur. The Bengals used a lot of two-tight-end sets last year, which essentially both TEs performances.  With guys like Martellus Bennett, Antonio Gates and Heath Miller around, there’s just no way you can consider using a Bengals tight end.

In Summary

I guess you could say the common theme across the board for the Bengals is safety. Andy Dalton is a safe backup or QB2, A.J. Green has proven he is a stud wide receiver worthy of a second-round pick, and Giovani Bernard fits firmly around the top 15 at running back. In a league where there is so much turnover year to year across all positions, it’s nice to see an offense with some stability for a change. Hopefully that translates into wins and championships for fantasy owners.




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