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Bengals all over the board in ESPN fantasy football preview

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The Bengals have a bust, a sleeper and a breakout candidate in ESPN’s 2017 fantasy preview.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals-Minicamp Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to fantasy football, the Cincinnati Bengals will be one of the more intriguing teams to monitor this season.

At various points throughout the year, we could see a host of different Bengals making a big impact on the fantasy landscape. At wide receiver, expect to see A.J. Green consistently be a fantasy stud throughout the year, but even he will have off games with so many other weapons commanding the ball in this offense.

Among them will be second-year receiver Tyler Boyd, who figures to have a big role as the projected starting slot receiver. There’s also veteran pass-catcher Brandon LaFell, who also had several big fantasy performances in 2016, though most of them came when Green was injured, of which the same goes for Boyd.

That’s not even accounting for what first-round receiver John Ross will do for this offense. He’s a game-breaker who could easily make a fantasy impact by catching just one or two passes per game with one of them going for big yardage and a score (think T.Y. Hilton, Kenny Stills or Taylor Gabriel).

Of course, all of these weapons make the quarterback a nice fantasy candidate. In fact, Andy Dalton is one of the big sleeper picks in ESPN’s latest fantasy football preview for the 2017 season:

Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals suffered through a disappointing, injury-plagued 2016 season, but Dalton still managed to post his third top-12 fantasy campaign in the past five years. In fact, you can call it four of the past five if you include a 2015 season in which he sat fifth before a Week 14 season-ending injury. Dalton quietly sits second among quarterbacks with 18 rushing touchdowns since he entered the league. This year, John Ross and Joe Mixon are in the mix, and A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and eventually Giovani Bernard will return after combining to miss 20 games last season. Dalton has starter upside and can be had late in your draft. -- Mike Clay

With so many weapons at his disposal, it’s not crazy to think Dalton becomes one of the top fantasy quarterbacks this coming season. That’s what he was in 2015 when he had this kind of arsenal at his disposal, so that may easily be the case this year.

One player who’s been key to Dalton’s viability as a fantasy option is his stud tight end, Tyler Eifert. However, Eifert’s inability to stay healthy for a 16-game season, not to mention he’s been injured during the fantasy playoffs in all of his first four NFL seasons, has him among ESPN’s biggest bust candidates:

Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals

A touchdown machine the past two seasons, Eifert can certainly find the end zone. However, he's far from durable, and you won't find him among the tight end leaders in receptions and targets. Eifert's fantasy value is too dependent on touchdowns. Ankle and back woes curtailed his 2016 season, and offseason back surgery should affect his summer. Draft Eifert, and there could be a double-digit touchdown season pending, but he's not nearly as valuable in PPR -- and by the way, you'll need to secure another tight end for parts or most of the season as well. -- Eric Karabell

I too would avoid Eifert early in fantasy drafts, but he could end up being a great value pick in the middle rounds.

But perhaps the Bengals’ biggest fantasy contributor this year will be rookie running back Joe Mixon. Some experts consider Mixon the Bengals’ best fantasy prospect, and ESPN has him among their top fantasy breakout candidates:

Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

From the eye test, he's the most gifted runner of this rookie class, a true three-down back, and he's going to have a huge year. In each of the past four years, the Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers are the only teams with 440-plus rushing attempts. Cincy will continue to run the ball a tremendous amount, but with whom? Jeremy Hill has had two disappointing years and Giovani Bernard is coming off a major injury, so you don't take Mixon and all the off-the-field baggage he brings just for "running back depth." He's going to start for the Bengals this year, and he has a legitimate shot to be a top-10 running back. -- Berry

From a talent perspective alone, Mixon is, in my opinion, not only the best running back from this year's draft class, but also the most NFL-ready back. He is a versatile threat who combines 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash with plus-rated receiving skills. He might be a poor man's Le'Veon Bell during his rookie campaign because of the presence of other backs on the Bengals' roster, but that's enough to project him as a low-end top running back. If he performs well enough to make the others irrelevant, watch out. -- Ken Daube

I’m not quite as high on Mixon as many of the fantasy experts are, partly because the Bengals are notoriously slow when bringing rookies along. That’s even more true when they have veteran players to take on big roles and allow the rookies to be brought into the mix slowly. The Bengals have Jeremy Hill entering a contract year, and I expect the Bengals to use him a lot and get what they can out of him before he likely leaves in free agency next year.

Then there’s Giovani Bernard, who’s a PPR stud when healthy, but he’s recovering from a torn ACL, suffered late last season. The threat of both Hill and Bernard receiving touches this season gives me pause on Mixon’s fantasy prospects, but he certainly could become big-time contributor as the regular season wears on.