The NFL regular season begins this week, as does fantasy football. Most fantasy football leagues kick off their season with a draft where some owners wisely build championship caliber teams and others create a laughable lineup destined for the league’s basement.
One of the keys to drafting a solid team is to have a good draft, by not reaching for players and by grabbing the best values who fall to you. It’s very tempting to select certain players who are boosted by a hype train or well known name, but ultimately what matters is their statistical production.
We are focusing on three Bengals players who have average draft positions that are much higher than their fantasy scoring projections warrant. The projections I use are based on a composite of various sites such as Yahoo and CBSsports. I’m also assuming a 12 team re-draft league with standard scoring.
With that said, here are three Bengals players likely to be selected too early and why you shouldn’t fall into the trap.
During the trench run in the Battle of Yavin IV, Darth Vader quipped, “the force is strong with this one,” when describing Luke Skywalker. Change Luke to Joe Mixon, and force to hype, and you have an accurate description of Mixon. But just like Luke, Mixon is worth the hype. He’s possibly the most explosive running back the Bengals have had since Corey Dillon, and the most complete one since James Brooks.
He is currently being selected around the mid third round to early fourth round. That’s about the same spot that fellow rookies Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey are being drafted. While Mixon is the more talented running back of the three, he suffers from something they don’t – a limit on his opportunities. And you can’t score fantasy points from the bench. Both McCaffrey and Cook are currently slated to be their team’s starters, ahead of an aging James Stewart and injured Latavius Murray, respectively. Meanwhile, Mixon was placed laughably as the Bengals’ fourth running back on the team’s initial depth chart (at this point, the Bengals only have three running backs, making it clear Mixon was never really fourth). Mixon will undoubtedly ascent the Bengals’ depth chart, but the message is clear – both Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill are going to get their touches on offense.
During the past four years, the Bengals have incorporated a two-man running back tandem, with the lead running back averaging 222 carries, and the second back getting 165. This year the Bengals have a three-man backfield, where things are going to be even more crowded. Even if Mixon can wrestle away 40% of the total workload, in something of a 40-30-30 split, that would likely give him about 650~700 rushing yards on the season. That’s nice, but that’s not exactly production you want from a running back that you are investing a third round pick to acquire. The Bengals have also shown a fondness of using Hill near the goal line, with Dalton stealing a handful of close scores annually. So you’re drafting a running back who is going to get you less than 1,000 total yards with touchdown vultures stealing points, that’s a guy you want more in the fifth or sixth round. Mixon is a great talent, and would easily be a first round fantasy pick as a feature back. But in 2017 he’s probably going to get drafted ahead of where he should be drafted.
What is 46 percent? If you guessed Mike Nugent’s field goal accuracy, that’s incorrect. If you guessed the percentage of games in which Eifert has appeared for the Bengals during the past three seasons, you are correct. Fantasy players don’t score you a lot of points when they aren’t on the field, and Eifert has an unfortunate track record of not being on the field very often.
When he is on the field, he’s a touchdown scoring machine who is a huge producer for your team. Consider that over the past two seasons, Eifert has scored one touchdown every 6.7 catches, which is even better than Rob Gronkowski’s rate of one touchdown every 6.9 catches.
Eifert currently has an average draft position of the mid sixth round, and if he were to play all 16 games this year, he would be worth every bit of that, and then some. But accounting for the fair amount of time he will likely miss this year, his yearly production puts him in the same category of Kyle Rudolph, Martellus Bennett, Delanie Walker, Zach Ertz, and Hunter Henry. All of them are being drafted anywhere from one to four rounds after Eifert. If you are the truly optimistic type who thinks Eifert can do a non-Eifert think, and stay healthy, they draft him in the sixth round. But if you are more pragmatic, then you can target similar fantasy producers later in the draft.
It may seem a bit puerile to label a player going in the 12th round as being drafted too early, but I’d suggest he is. In the Bengals’ pecking order for targets, Ross is squarely behind A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Brandon LaFell, and Tyler Boyd. He is also behind Bernard, and possibly Mixon. Ross is probably in line for about 20~30 receptions this season, which doesn’t make him a very tenable fantasy option. Even if he averages 15+ yards per reception, his usage is going to make him a player who averages 0~2 points most weeks, with a couple double digit games sprinkled into the mix. That means unless you can correctly guess the one or two games that he will be relevant this season, he provides your team no value. On a team like the Rams, Jets, Vikings, Ravens, or 49ers who are devoid of much wide receiver talent, Ross would hold more appeal. But his volume really doesn’t justify a roster spot on any fantasy teams this season.
Additionally, Ross suffered a knee sprain in the preseason finale and is questionable to play in the first few games this year.
Which Bengal will be drafted too high relative to his fantasy value in fantasy leagues this year?
This poll is closed
Other (mention in comments)
None. Every Bengal will exceed all expectations!