INSIDE THE NUMBERS
On paper the Bengals offense looks pedestrian. They ranked 20th in passing and 19th in rushing last year. But all of that was with a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton, a rookie wide receiver in AJ Green, and a new offensive coordinator in Jay Gruden. Despite all of that, this trio seemed to click and expect an improvement on these rankings as they all enter a second year together and get more comfortable with everything. Think of Dalton as a solid backup fantasy quarterback, but nothing more than that.
The Bengals will face an uphill battle in their schedule this season. They have the 14th most difficult schedule in the NFL, and face the entire NFC East as well as games against the AFC West, including Carson Palmer’s return to Paul Brown Stadium as a Raider. Both Manning brothers also come to PBS too.
AJ Green is one of the most exciting and talented receivers to don the striped helmet and is one of the most elite receivers in all of football. From a fantasy perspective, he is a top-ten WR. He had 65 catches for 1,057 yards and 7 TDs, as a rookie, with a rookie QB and a rookie offensive coordinator. So the sky is the limit. Look for more catches, more yards and more TDs from Green this year and safely draft him as your WR1 in all formats. The only concern with Green is that there is little proven talent around him, and he will be facing a lot of double teams. Green is talented enough to handle that however.
Bernard Scott is a guy some people think is due for a breakout. He is behind Benjarvus Green-Ellis on the depth chart. Scott has showed an occasional flash but I think it’s a make or break year for him, and I don’t see him doing anything more than what he’s already done. Scott is not a viable fantasy option, even as a handcuff to Green-Ellis. In fact, I think Brian Leonard is the better option as Green-Ellis’ backup, especially in Gruden’s system.
Brandon Tate is currently slated to be the other starting WR alongside Green. Tate has potential and will benefit from likely double teams on Green. Tate will have tough competition through the rest of preseason, but considering what the departed Jerome Simpson did last year, there’s no reason to think that Tate can’t produce decent fantasy numbers and be considered a bench player, bye-week filler for your fantasy squad.
Bringing in someone from New England is always a good move. BenJarvus Green-Ellis signed with the Bengals to be their featured back, after the team chose not to resign Cedric Benson. Green-Ellis is quietly one of the most business-like running backs in the NFL. An unsung hero, the type of guy a fantasy owner can count on. Back to back double digit TDs make fantasy owners happy. In PPR formats, Green-Ellis has less value as he’s never shown much as a receiver out of the backfield, but I anticipate numbers similar to his 2010 campaign in New England, which equaled 1,000 yards rushing and 13 TDs. That is good enough to make the Law Firm worthy of a RB2 spot on your fantasy squad.
The real battle lies at wide receiver. Who will step up as the #2 and slot receiver? After cutting Jordan Shipley, there’s nothing resolved. Tate is on track for some significant playing time and has the inside track to line up opposite Green. In the mix as well is Andrew Hawkins and rookie Mohamed Sanu. Hawkins is the player to watch. He could be used like the Saints use Darren Sproles. His size and cutting ability makes him shifty enough to be considered in deep fantasy leagues or as a waiver wire grab. In dynasty leagues, Sanu is a player who will only improve throughout the season. Keep an eye on him, or draft him as good long-term value.
Jermaine Gresham is pivotal to the Bengals success. The tight end must stay healthy and must become a major target for Andy Dalton in order to add dimension to the passing game. Gresham has all the factors and ability to make this happen. He had 56 catches for 596 yards and 6 TDs last year. Just with that stat line, Gresham is a solid tight end in most fantasy formats, or at worse a nice backup. But with an uptick in those numbers, which I anticipate, and he’s a guy you can grab later in drafts, after the the G’s (Gronk, Graham and Gates) get drafted and still count on to help your fantasy squad.
Fantasy Football, NFL