Your fantasy football draft is over. Some of you did your homework; you studied Average Draft Positions, charted your top tier players, taken reps in mock drafts, maybe even tried to get some of your other league managers to "tip their hand" on their draft strategies and targeted players. Some of you did minimal preparation and still feel good about your draft. Some of you took Mike Nugent in the 7th round and thought it was hilarious.
Either way the foundation is set. So…now what? Well, if you have any Bengals players on your roster in Week 1 of the regular season, we’d like to take a look at what players you should start and who you should stash on your bench when the Bengals play the Ravens next Monday.
A.J. Green – You should be starting A.J. Green every week. I don’t care how you feel about Baltimore’s defense. Don’t get cute. A.J. Green only played one game against Baltimore last season and it resulted in a measly 26 yards on 2 receptions, but Dalton didn’t have the most impressive numbers in that game either. As much as I don’t like to put too much weight on past games in fantasy football, it’s worth mentioning Dalton threw for 373 yards the last time he visited the Ravens in Baltimore. The point is: you can’t bench A.J. Green. You didn’t draft A.J. Green in the first five rounds to play him based on matchups.
Jermaine Gresham – Starting Gresham is a little bold, but if he’s your starting tight end I can’t recommend benching him if you’re starting an unproven tight end or a sleeper in his place. If you’re the type that likes to point fingers at past performances, then consider that Gresham actually had more production in the receiving game against Baltimore when A.J. Green was on the field last season. In fact, Gresham had a season high 72 yards against the Ravens in Week 17 of 2011. I’m fully aware of how well the Ravens played against tight ends last season (2nd fewest fantasy points allowed to tight ends), but I wouldn’t bench Gresham unless you have an obvious alternative.
Mike Nugent – Kickers are one of the more fickle positions to predict in the world of fantasy football. With that said, the best I can predict with Mike Nugent is the Bengals offense getting stalled in Ravens territory on Monday night. I would expect at least two field goal attempts from Nugent, and it’s not bold to predict he’ll make his field goal attempts. Nugent was 3 for 4 attempts against Baltimore in Week 17 last year. Ideally he’ll have a few extra point conversions, but I think the Bengals will be leaning on Nugent’s leg first and foremost as the offense tries to get into rhythm downfield during the first regular season game of 2012.
Andy Dalton – As mentioned previously, Dalton had good passing yards against Baltimore once last season. However, don’t forget that when Dalton had 373 passing yards last November, he also had 3 interceptions and only one passing touchdown. Dalton has yet to have any big fantasy performances and even if he does improve this season, Dalton should stay on your bench until further notice. If you happen to be playing in 2 Quarterback leagues, Dalton is worth filling an empty slot but don’t count on him to carry your roster.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis – I’ve been torn on BenJarvus Green-Ellis this week. I know it’s tempting to start Green-Ellis, especially when you consider his potential for extra work in the backfield now that Bernard Scott won’t be playing Monday. As much as I think Green-Ellis is undervalued by many fantasy experts this year, this is one week I’d recommend benching the Bengals running back if you can afford to. I just need to see Green-Ellis on the field again. I need to see how he handles the patched up offense line as well. I'm optimistic, but not optimistic enough to start him against a tough Ravens run defense. If you’re in deeper leagues, playing Green-Ellis as a flex could keep you afloat simply due to his goal line opportunities.
All Wide Receivers That Aren’t A.J. Green – It’s obviously too early to know who to count out in the receiving game beyond A.J. Green (and Gresham). Even in deeper leagues, I wouldn’t suggest trying to get too clever and starting any other Bengals wide receiver just yet. If you’re in a league that awards points per reception, keep an eye on Andrew Hawkins. Many fantasy experts considered Jordan Shipley a sleeper prior to the 2011 season. Now, with Hawkins taking duties in the slot, he could be an interesting pickup a few weeks into the season. Mohamed Sanu is another interesting PPR sleeper to watch out for. In all honesty, there may not be much clarity on fantasy wide receivers on the Bengals anytime soon. Stay alert and monitor the situation week by week.
Bengals Defense – I’m a big fan of the Bengals defense this season, particularly in fantasy football. The main reason I’m suggesting you avoid starting the Bengals defense is primarily because of what the Bengals failed to accomplish on the scoreboard against the Ravens last season. The Ravens scored 31 points against the Bengals in Week 11 and 24 points in Week 17 last season. I believe the Bengals will create turnovers, generate a few sacks, possibly an interception – but the scoreboard is what concerns me this week. You could certainly do worse than start the Bengals defense, and I’m honestly somewhat on the fence this week on whether to start or sit them in fantasy. However, I think there are plenty more attractive matchups this week for defenses in fantasy football.