Cincinnati Bengals 2013 Fantasy Team Preview
The darlings of this year’s edition of HBO’s Hard Knocks, the Cincinnati Bengals, are suddenly finding themselves where few other Bengals teams ever have: In the Super Bowl conversation.
Coming off of two consecutive playoff appearances, Cincy boasts one of the NFL’s best young defenses, and a solid core of offensive players centered around All-World receiver A.J. Green. So, while expectations for the Bengals are at an all-time high, what can we expect from their individual players from a fantasy perspective in 2013?
QB Andy Dalton
Flashy he is not, but the former TCU Horned Frog is a proven winner, and he was given the keys to the Bengals’ offense right out of college. However, that doesn’t necessary translate into “can’t-miss” fantasy output. While the numbers in ’12 were solid (62% completions, over 3,600 yards, 27 TD, 16 INT), there are several other quarterbacks that can be relied upon in fantasy that will put up more attractive numbers. Dalton doesn’t throw a very accurate deep ball, and the interception totals are too high for a guy that isn’t putting up massive yardage our touchdown numbers. You can get away with him as your backup, but if he’s your QB1, you might be in trouble.
QB Josh Johnson
If something were to happen to Dalton, Josh Johnson looks like the guy that would become Cincy’s starting QB. He started a couple of games for Tampa a few years back, but wasn’t able to capitalize on the opportunity. The team has been impressed with his performance throughout camp, and he’s performed well in each of the two Bengals’ preseason games, as well. He has wonderful running ability, which is where he’d make his mark in fantasy if he were to get an opportunity. He’s rushed for a total of 91 yards on just nine carries so far.
RB Giovani Bernard
Bernard was the Bengals’ second-round draft choice this April out of North Carolina, and he looks like he’s in great position to play a big role in the offense as a rookie. He’s got great shiftiness and elusiveness, and the team has been using him quite a bit throughout the preseason. While he may lose goal-line carries to Law Firm, I love Bernard as a guy that will be featured in Cincinnati more and more as the year progresses. You may want to start the season with him on your bench or in your flex spot, but he may prove to be a nice RB2 option later in the year. Bernard is also surely a better pass-catching option than is BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and if they’re splitting carries 50/50, then I’d much rather have Bernard.
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
The Law Firm topped 1,000 yards in his first year with Cincinnati in 2012, but that didn’t stop the team from drafting his potential replacement in Bernard. He’s not particularly explosive, and projects to do most of his damage in short-yardage situations, as his role will surely take a hit this season. He’ll still be used quite a bit, but as mentioned above, I’d anticipate Bernard to start eating into his touches as the season progresses, limiting BJGE’s fantasy value even further. I’d say he’s a flex option this season, at best.
RB Rex Burkhead
Burkhead, a rookie out of Nebraska, doesn’t really have the “wow” factor when he has the ball in his hands, but he’s shown that he can play. He has 15 carries for 83 yards thus far in the preseason, and he’s in a battle for that third running back spot on the Bengals’ roster. Even if he makes the team, he doesn’t have any fantasy value, unless an injury occurs to either Bernard or Green-Ellis, though.
RB Dan Herron
Not to be confused with MLB pitcher Dan Haren, Dan Herron is another young runner that has been impressive for Cincinnati so far. He got just four carries total as a rookie last season, but he already has 30 carries for 111 yards and a score in two preseason games. Based on in-game performance alone, you’d imagine Herron has the edge over Burkhead for a spot in the backfield, but wait and see. Regardless, there’s not much fantasy upside here, either.
WR A.J. Green
Green is already one of the five best receivers in football, and he’s just now entering his third year in the NFL. Following a very good rookie year, he was absolutely phenomenal in 2012, catching 97 balls for 1,350 yards and 11 TDs. His 164 targets tied him with Andre Johnson for the fifth-most in the league, so Andy Dalton is looking his way again and again. Dalton’s aforementioned lack of accuracy on the deep ball hurts Green a bit, but not nearly enough to keep him from being a stud fantasy No. 1 receiver.
WR Mohamed Sanu
After Green, the quality of Cincy’s receivers drops off quite a bit. Sanu is entering his second year in the league, after catching catching 25 passes for 154 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie. The four touchdowns stands out, as it was still good enough to tie for the third-most receiving scores on the team. He’ll now be starting opposite A.J. Green, and, while he’s not gifted with very good speed, he’s still a big target with very solid hands. He’s a nice option for Dalton in the red zone with Green likely drawing a ton of attention. There’s some sleeper potential here with Sanu, and he could ultimately prove to be a decent option as a WR3.
WR Marvin Jones
Jones, who was also a rookie last year, caught 18 passes for 201 yards with a TD in his first year. If he can beat Sanu out for that No. 2 gig, then he’s got some fantasy potential. For now, though, he’s likely best as a waiver wire pickup during the season if he starts to show something.
TE Jermaine Gresham
Gresham was able to appear in all 16 games for the first time last year, and he had his best overall statistical season as a result, catching 64 passes for 737 yards and five touchdowns. He’s a great athlete and a big target, which makes him an option in the end zone. But I wouldn’t expect him to improve greatly upon that 2012 output, if at all, which makes him a pretty ordinary fantasy TE. You can start him, but he’s not going to amaze you.
TE Tyler Eifert
Long-term, Eifert has a very good chance of being a very useful fantasy piece. He’s a tremendous athlete, and has already shown in preseason that he has the ability to make plays over-the-top, which can only be said about a handful of tight ends in the league. He’ll be splitting looks with Gresham to start his career, though, so he may not have very good fantasy value out of the gate. He will be an interesting name to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
K Mike Nugent
You can find better fantasy kickers than Mike Nugent.
I mentioned the Bengals’ defense in the open, and they’re projected by most to be a top-five fantasy unit in 2013. Geno Atkins is an absolute beast on the interior, and Cincy ranked second in the league with 51 sacks as a team a year ago. Draft them, and be happy with the results.