A Final Look at Bengals Players Before Your Fantasy Football Draft

Aug 23, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; The Cincinnati Bengals cheerleaders perform in the end zone during the pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Leifheit-US PRESSWIRE

With preseason coming to a close, most NFL fans are gearing up for their fantasy football draft. If you’re anything like me, however, you prepare year round. Some of you may have already drafted for your league. I personally enjoy waiting until the clock has run out during the final NFL preseason game to avoid the frustrations of preseason injuries, roster moves, and so on. For those of us that haven’t participated in their fantasy draft(s) this season, this weekend is more than likely the time you’ll be sitting in front of your computer or draft boards making decisions that will play a large role in how your faux football team will perform for the 2012 NFL season. My goal is to keep you focused on the true value and potential of Bengals players worth drafting in your leagues.

First of all, as much as I’d like to write over 10,000 words on draft strategies, scoring formats, and every other piece of advice in regards to having a successful fantasy draft, I’m going to keep this focused on the Bengals specifically. This article is meant to keep your Bengals fandom in check so you aren't reaching too early on a Cincinnati player. Knowing where to take a Bengals player also enables you to verbally humiliate a league member that picks Jermaine Gresham five rounds too early. Also, as much as I love PPR (Points-Per-Reception) Leagues, I’m going to refer to a standard scoring format to keep this article succinct for the typical fantasy football fan. Lastly, some of the data I’m going to use on this site is derived from Yahoo! – here’s the plug:

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Since Yahoo! does not have live draft data yet, I’m deriving a lot of my average draft position numbers from other sources in order to get the most recent trends.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB

Average Draft Position (ADP):

4th round – 10th pick (12 team League)

5th round – 8th pick (10 team League)

Yahoo! Position Rank: 17th

It was only several months ago that BenJarvus Green-Ellis was being drafted late in the 7th round. He’s clearly moving up draft boards. And why shouldn’t he? While Cincinnati fans are wondering what Green-Ellis will contribute to the run game, football fans in general can identify Green-Ellis as an option for their fantasy team that’s “safe.” No one is expecting Green-Ellis to be a homerun hitter on their roster, but he’s a good supporting starter as a RB2 or a high-end flex player. Green-Ellis has racked up 24 touchdowns over the past two years, and he’s on a team that will presumably get him more carries each game than he did in New England. With injury risks and job security plaguing a handful of mid-round running backs, Green-Ellis is a solid choice at the right price.

Don’t reach on BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Let the homers take him early if you expect it. Otherwise, grab him as a RB2 assuming you’ve secured top tier players in other positions.

Andy Dalton, QB

Average Draft Position (ADP):

Undrafted in 10 and 12 team leagues.

11th round – 7th pick in 14 team leagues.

Yahoo! Position Rank: 23rd

There isn’t much to speculate on with Andy Dalton in the world of fantasy football. Dalton ended up being the 15th best fantasy QB at the end of 2011. I don’t see any reason to assume differently heading into 2012. If you’re looking for a capable backup QB in your league, Dalton fits that profile. I could argue there is some upside to Dalton when you consider his occasional mobility, but at the end of the day he’s a solid backup. No more. No less. He’s going undrafted in most leagues, but if you have a lot of Cincinnati fans in your fake football league, he’ll more than likely be drafted well into double-digit rounds.

A.J. Green, WR

Average Draft Position (ADP):

3rd round – 2nd pick in 12 team leagues

3rd round – 6th pick in 10 team leagues

Yahoo! Position Rank: 13th

At one point, Yahoo! projected AJ Green as the 8th best receiver. There have been some emerging wide receivers this offseason to overshadow him a bit. The fact that AJ Green has slightly dipped in the rankings will work to your advantage if your league managers rely heavily on Yahoo! rankings, but a smart fantasy drafter will know not to sleep on AJ Green. The fact remains that AJ Green is rarely available after the 3rd round in most fantasy formats. I would feel good with AJ Green as my first WR taken, but I’d be quick to grab a high-end WR2 within a few rounds just to support any potential dips in fantasy production from Green. If you’re confident that AJ Green could fall to you in round 4, grab your running back or QB while the top tier players are still there. Otherwise, take AJ Green a little earlier than you’d like if it means you’re locking up your preferred wide receiver.

Draft AJ Green as a top 10 wide receiver in fantasy football. Don’t count on him being available in round 4.

Jermaine Gresham, TE

Average Draft Position (ADP):

11th round – 5th pick in 12 Team Leagues

13th round – 2nd pick in 10 Team Leagues

Yahoo! Position Rank: 13th

Gresham has always been difficult for me to project value on - his expected upside is the biggest contributor to this. Gresham being ranked as the 13th best tight end in fantasy football is a great example of a Buy Low candidate. Gresham has the potential to be a top 10 tight end in fantasy football this year. He’s certainly a low-end TE1 beginning week 1 of the regular season. A great strategy with Gresham is to draft a veteran presence such as Tony Gonzalez a few rounds ahead of Gresham. Another option would be to actually start Gresham in week 1, but grab a deeper player with upside such as Kyle Rudolph or Jared Cook. Either way, if you can spend twelve rounds drafting at other positions and you pick up Jermaine Gresham as your starting tight end, it’s a great bargain.

If you’ve chosen to pass on Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham in the early rounds of the draft, I don’t see any reason to reach for another tight end until you’ve fallen in Jermaine Gresham territory on the draft board. While Antonio Gates or Jermichael Finley is tempting in mid rounds, don't let them cloud your awareness of other positions so early in your draft; simply know that Gresham could very well be available many rounds later.

Mike Nugent, K

Average Draft Position (ADP): Undrafted

Yahoo! Position Rank: 19th

If you’re the type of person that reads into kicker projections, I’d recommend picking up Nugent off of waivers if the kicker you drafted falls short. Nugent ranks at #15 on average, but could easily end up being a top 10 kicker by season’s end. Almost every team in the NFL will be touted as a team that will "struggle in the red zone," but the Bengals were notorious for it last season. Nugent will make the field goals asked of him, and in fantasy football that’s minimally what you would expect of any kicker. He was a top 10 kicker in most formats last season, and I doubt this season will change that much. He was franchised, after all. How can he fail?!

Bengals Defense

Average Draft Position (ADP): Undrafted

Yahoo! Position Rank: 16th

In most scoring formats, the Bengals defense ranked just outside of the top 10 in 2011. In fact, outside of sacks and fumble recoveries (which they ranked 5th on each), the Bengals hovered around 11th to 13th in rankings on almost every defensive category, in terms of fantasy scoring.

I would assume it’s very likely the Bengals will minimally crack the top ten. The two biggest contributors to the Bengals falling out of the top 10 in 2011 were Points Allowed (ranked 12th) and a low amount of Interceptions (ranked 26th). If you prefer to play your defenses based on matchups, consider matchups against raw signal callers such as Ryan Tannehill, Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Weeden, and Robert Griffin III throughout the season.

If you aren’t in a league with a bunch of Cincinnati homers, the Bengals defense will be completely under the radar. Odds are they’ll still be on the waiver wire in week 1. I’ve found virtually no discussion whatsoever by many fantasy gurus regarding Bengals as even a DEEP sleeper. If you are in a league with Cincinnati homers, let them grab Cincinnati if they overvalue their defense. I'm not a big fan of taking defenses or kickers beyond the last few rounds anyway due to their unpredictability (i.e. Pittsburgh was the first defense drafted in most leagues but ended up being 15th in fantasy scoring for 2011). If Cincinnati is available in round 15 or later, it’s certainly a defense worth buying low.

Fantasy Football Sleepers:

There are plenty of players with potential to help out your fantasy football league on the Bengals this season. Based off of how preseason is turning out so far, I’d consider monitoring Andrew Hawkins in PPR leagues, Bernard Scott (PPR), and keeping an eye on the Brandon Tate & Armon Binns timeshare in all formats as we get further into the season. Keep in mind: Virtually all the Bengals players considered “sleepers” will go undrafted.

Hopefully a few of my points will assist you in recognizing draft value when it comes to Bengals players. A Cincinnati homer can be a dangerous variable when you are going through your fantasy draft. Stick to the averages; do not allow yourself to reach on a player simply because you expect a Cincinnati fan to take a Bengals player too early.

For fantasy draft discussions, sit/start debates, or any other fantasy football related topics - feel free to chat with me on Twitter: @AndrewFoxMiller

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