In this segment of the Inscriber Magazine Fantasy Football series, we take a look inside the Cincinnati Bengals, and how they can help your fantasy football team this season. The Bengals are a long-running joke without a punch line in the NFL. Regular season heathens, but can’t quite get over the playoff hump to secure a win. Unless you’re in a playoff league, don’t let that stop you from drafting Bengals. I’ll tell you five things you should know before draft day. Let’s begin.
Late Round Savior
Bengals call him the Red Rifle. J.J. Watt calls him the Red Ryder BB Gun. Homers call him a great quarterback, and everybody else calls him Andy Dalton. Currently being mocked at around the eighth round, he gives big value at little cost. Last season, Dalton only played in 13 games, until he broke his thumb, but threw for 3,250 yards and 25 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.
Regardless of his playoff ineptitude, Dalton holds huge fantasy value. If you find yourself without a quarterback near the later rounds, and Dalton is available, feel free to snatch him up. The Dalton-to-Green connection is still strong, and his completions to the new weapons that replaced Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu should only add to his fantasy value.
If Antonio Brown isn’t the best wide receiver in the AFC North (he is), then A.J. Green is. The only people that will bypass Green at first are those that don’t know anything about the Bengals, or the people that had him last year and were disappointed with his performance. Green finished last year averaging about 5.2 catches and 81.6 yards a game, which makes you question why I have him as one of the best fantasy receivers in the NFL.
This isn’t a PPR league, folks. We’re talking standard league value, and to his credit, Green locked in 10 touchdowns last season. The fact that his #2 and #3 are Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd should mean that he will be Dalton’s favorite target this year, again, therefore increasing his top 10 value even further. Look for Green to go in rounds 1-2, with a round 3 spot at the absolute latest. (Then get out of that eight-team league and play with the big boys.)
Defense, Defense, Defense
When people think about tough defenses, they don’t think about Cincinnati. As much as I hate to admit it, last year, they had the best defense in the AFC North, and one of the best in the entire league. The Bengals’ secondary has picked off 20 passes or more for three seasons, but they remain underrated in most conversations. Reggie Nelson and Leon Hall have left, and the replacements are rookies Shawn Williams, William Jackson III, and Darqueze Dennard so that production MAY drop off, but the front seven remains tough, and should help a rebuilding secondary.
Many owners will overlook the Bengals for the Seahawks, Broncos, or other tough defenses, so swoop in and grab a top 10 fantasy D/ST before anybody thinks of getting them.
Rookie To Watch
Every once in awhile, you have a feeling about a rookie, and you’re convinced that they will make an instant impact. While I don’t feel that way about rookie wide receiver Tyler Boyd, there’s a definite argument in his favor. The Cincinnati scheme is similar to the scheme he ran in college, which should make the learning curve a bit easier to tackle as he makes his NFL transition. He’ll be catching passes from Dalton in the regular season, which is a good thing, as much as I hate to admit it. He could potentially be starting, as his only competition is Brandon LaFell, which is very beatable.
Add all this to the fact that over three years, Boyd caught 254 passes for 3,361 yards and 21 touchdowns, and production shouldn’t be an issue for the young rookie Bengal. Keep an eye out for him, and in smaller leagues, consider adding him to your bench in the later rounds as an insurance policy.
What to Avoid
While the Bengals’ quarterback, receivers, and defense are all solid draft picks for your fantasy squad, there are two positions to avoid, and for good reason.
The first is the running back position, namely Jeremy Hill. While he scored 12 touchdowns on the year, his overall production was fairly unimpressive. His lack of receiving yards is pretty normal, considering Giovanni Bernard is more of a receiving back, and this severely limits his value in PPR leagues. In standard leagues, you should also be worried, as Hill had one more carry than he did in 2014, but ran for 330 fewer yards, totaling only 794 yards. There are a plethora of backs that you can choose from, with better upside, so stay away from Hill on draft day, unless he’s still around in very late rounds.
The other position is the tight end position. Tyler Eifert is easily a top 3 tight end, but he can’t stay healthy, which is a problem for bigger leagues, as you won’t have a solid backup to replace him if he goes down yet again. Eifert has yet to play a full season in his career, and only played 13 games last season. He caught 52 passes for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns, showing that, when he is healthy, he is a star. I advise caution when drafting him. He’ll likely go high, but with Kelce, Gronk, Reed, Watson, and others to choose from, don’t take the bait. Wait to see if he hits the wires, and claim him then, if it looks like he will remain healthy.