As we've noticed before, the Bengals are no stranger to ridiculous predictions that show just how little respect the NFL community has for the team. In the latest case ESPN's 2016 fantasy rankings offer a strange perspective on some of the top Bengals players. The rankings are done by position, so the rankings (many of which make no sense) are based on the rank at each player's position.
Andy Dalton (16)
Dalton being labeled as an 'average quarterback' has been an annoying misconception for years. It's also one you would have thought he dispelled last year. The logic behind this prediction must be the fact that he ranked 18th overall in total fantasy points at the end of last season, according to ESPN's fantasy stats.
However, it should also be noted that a lot of this ranking has to do with the fact that he missed a quarter of the season with a thumb injury. Don't forget that he led the league in fantasy points in October of last year. It might be crazy to assume that he would have stayed in that range with dual threat quarterbacks like Cam Newton and Russell Wilson making waves, but to say that he's only the 16th best fantasy quarterback going into next year is insane.
Jeremy Hill (19); Giovani Bernard (34)
It's a bit harder to argue against Jeremy Hill's positioning. As much as we can talk about the fact that Hill is using his past mistakes as motivation to improve, the fact of the matter is he just didn't live up to fantasy expectations last year. In many cases, he was being talked about as a first round fantasy draft prospect before the season started. But, some serious fumbling issues as well as really poor running efficiency throughout the season led to a major drop off in his fantasy production.
Bernard made his mark last year when given the opportunity to take snaps away from Hill throughout the season. But, he's ranked No. 34 overall in ESPN's list behind guys that he finished ahead of last year like Jeremy Langford, Matt Jones, and C.J. Anderson. Essentially, it seems like ESPN expects the Bengals to virtually ignore the running back position next year, despite Bernard averaging the third most yards per run of running backs with at least 150 carries last season (4.7).
A.J. Green (6)
A.J. Green is clearly one of the most dynamic wide receivers in the NFL, but it's also true that he finished eighth overall in fantasy points for wide receivers last season. Granted, his numbers were cut down a bit due to the emergence of Tyler Eifert as well as having Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, in a very pass-happy backfield.
Still, the fact that he is ranked under Dez Bryant is questionable at best. By all means, Bryant is also one of the most talented and dynamic wide receivers in the NFL. But, he was virtually non-existent as a fantasy option last year. He only put up 54 fantasy points total, according to ESPN's fantasy stats. Granted, he didn't play for seven of the team's 16 games. But, he averaged six points per game when he did play. Green, on the other hand, averaged 11.19 points per game. It's hard to say whether or not Bryant will return to his pre-injury form next season, but it seems like a big reach to already consider him more of a viable fantasy option than Green in 2016.
Tyler Eifert (7)
Here comes the fun one. How in the world is Tyler Eifert ranked as the seventh best fantasy tight end going into 2016? In 2015 he really opened up and shredded the NFL statistically, ranking No. 6 overall among tight ends in fantasy points despite missing three games and part of a fourth. He led the NFL in receiving touchdowns for a while and was even on pace to break the single season receiving touchdown record for tight ends, as well as the Bengals' all time receiving touchdown record, regardless of position.
Despite losing nearly a quarter of the season to injury, he finished just a single touchdown behind leading the NFL with 13 on the season. With both Jones and Sanu leaving in the offseason and a new offensive coordinator taking over, does it really make sense for an elite weapon like Eifert to be given less opportunities than he given was last year? You could probably make the argument for him being ranked as high as No. 2 on any fantasy rankings list.
K: Mike Nugent (19)
Gauging how kickers are expected to perform in a fantasy season is probably one of the more futile efforts you will ever encounter. So many factors go into a kicker's ability to put up fantasy stats, very few of which have to do with his individual skill. The best fantasy kickers tend to be part of teams with great down-the-field offenses, but less than stellar red zone performance.
That said, this ranking is pretty confusing because Nugent is ranked seven spots lower than he finished in fantasy scoring last year. Nugent's ability to hit field goals and extra points doesn't seem to really change much from year to year. Furthermore, these fantasy rankings don't seem to have terribly high hopes for the offense's ability to put the ball in the endzone next year. The only explanation for this ranking could be the fact that ESPN doesn't expect the Bengals to have any sort of offensive firepower at all next season, despite having stacked the roster with talent. At the very least, Nugent should be placed around where he finished last season (12).
Defense/Special teams (6)
Finally, we come across a portion of the team that is expected to improve in fantasy performance from last year. In 2015, the defense finished ranked ninth in fantasy scoring. Much of that had to do with the fact that Geno Atkins' return to form boosted the rest of the defensive line, and Reggie Nelson led the league in interceptions. Nelson is no longer with the team, but the additions of William Jackson III, Karlos Dansby, Nick Vigil, and the continued success of other defensive players should provide enough of a shot in the arm for the unit to continue to improve.
What do you think of these rankings?