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Fantasy Football 101: Evaluating which Bengals you should draft in 2018

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Are any Cincinnati Bengals draftable in fantasy football this season? And if so, who and in which rounds?

Cincinnati Bengals v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

In this edition of our fantasy football 2018 preview, we look at the members of the Cincinnati Bengals who may or may not have any fantasy football relevance this NFL season.

QUARTERBACK

Over the past four seasons Andy Dalton has finished as a mid- to low-QB2. The one exception was his MVP-caliber 2015 season when he finished as a borderline QB1/QB2. Even with the slight improvements to the offensive line for this season, Dalton is squarely a QB2, and one can argue whether he is in the middle of the QB2’s or at the bottom of that group.

He is currently projected to finish as a low end QB2 by most self-annointed “experts” and isn’t being drafted in the first 14 rounds of most leagues. That puts him in the mix with guys like Bortles, Trubisky, Tannehill, Keenum, and Manning. In a standard 12 team league with one starting QB, you can usually avoid these guys in your draft and just add them as a bye week waiver add for the one week you need them.

But if you are in the odd league that starts two quarterbacks, or has a deep bench where everybody carries a backup, Dalton is worth consideration. He can be had on the cheap, and does have the upside to perform as a good backup.

Conclusion: Don’t draft him as a starter, but if the backup QB pickings start to get thin, and you need a second QB on your roster, he’s worth a late round grab.

RUNNING BACK

Joe Mixon is the Bengals very talented starting running back. Unfortunately, talent alone doesn’t translate to fantasy success. You need opportunity (touches) and a good offense to convert those touches to fantasy points. Mixon doesn’t have a “touchdown vulture” like Jeremy Hill to steal scores near the goal line, but he does have one of the league’s better 3rd down backs who will scoop up a portion of the workload. Mixon should have plenty of opportunity to get carries and even some receptions, but his undoing may (again) be the offense.

The Bengals’ offensive line should be improved from 2017, but is it improved enough? In the first two preseason games the starting line has struggled to provide running lanes with the top two running backs only averaging 3.5 yards per carry so far, and Mixon only getting 17 yards on 7 carries.

Mixon is currently being drafted in the mid-second round, and is projected to score as a low end RB1 or good RB2. He is in that mix of guys like Freeman (great offense but loses a lot of work), McCaffrey (lots of touches but bad line), Howard (limited receiving totals) and McKinnon (limited touches and injury) who all have RB1 upside, but each have issues holding them back. If you expect the Bengals line and offense to be much improved in 2018, then Mixon should outperform his ADP and is worth an early round 2 pick. If you expect the line to struggle, then the other guys listed above may be better options.

Giovani Bernard is a good third down back, but how much value does a third down back provide in fantasy? Obviously he’s a good pickup if Mixon gets hurt, but his stand alone value is minimal. He is not in the running to be a 50/50 committee guy, and so his upside is severely limited, as is the case with most “backup” running backs. Assuming Mixon stays healthy, Bernard is projected as a RB4 or RB5 this season, which is better than his average draft position of the 14th round.

Conclusion: Mixon is a good Round 2 target if the Bengals’ offense can rebound from a dreadful 2017. Bernard is a good value very late in the draft.

WIDE RECEIVER

Since entering the league in 2011 A.J. Green’s fantasy points per game in standard leagues has finished as 17th, 4th, 5th, 13th, 12th, 6th, 11th overall. So he is going to consistently going to produce as a WR1 for your team. His current average draft position as the eighth receiver (21st overall) taken puts him squarely in the middle of that WR1 range. That is a good spot for him, and he should finish as a solid WR1 this year.

So what to do with Tyler Boyd and John Ross? Neither Ross nor Boyd are being drafted in the first 14 rounds of standard leagues, meaning they should both be available for you as a late round pick, should be you be so inclined. The problem with Boyd and Ross is that neither has established himself as the clear No. 2 in the Bengals offense. As it stands, both look to generate 300 to 600 yards and 3 to 5 touchdowns. That’s hardly fantasy relevant, with much better options out there.

But if one of them, presumably Ross, can emerge as the clear No. 2, they could be expected to produce approximately what Brandon LaFell averaged with the Bengals, which is 700 yards and four to five touchdowns. That would make Ross a WR4 or WR5, and worth a deep roster spot.

Conclusion: Green in the mid-second round. If you really want a Bengals player on your roster and don’t have one yet, feel free to make a super-late pick with Ross if you think he will become the clear No. 2.

TIGHT END

When healthy, there are few tight ends in the NFL not named Rob Gronkowski who are better than Tyler Eifert. Since 2014 Eifert has caught a touchdown on 20 percent of his receptions. Other elite tight ends are well below this: Gronk 14 percent, Kelce 7 percent, Olsen 7 percent, Ertz 6 percent. Since 2014 Eifert has averaged 46 yards per game and an insane 0.75 touchdowns per game. That equates to 9.1 points per game in standard scoring. In 2015 and 2016 when Eifert played at least 8+ games, that jumps up to 9.9 points per game. That puts him in line with last year’s top tight ends (Gronk 12.0, Kelce 10.1, Ertz 9.3).

The problem for Eifert has never been ability, as he is clearly one of the top tight ends in the league. His problem has been availability. He has only played in 24 out of 64 games over the past four seasons, and even in his best season, only managed to suit up for 13 games. It’s hard to get fantasy points when you don’t play, and missing over 60% of his games means you aren’t playing.

Eifert is a guy who can be a top fantasy tight end but is currently being drafted at the end of the 12th round in most leagues. If you have a deep enough bench that can house two tight ends, he’s worth the pick because he’s a great option when healthy. But you need that extra roster space for the games he is not healthy.

Conclusion: Eifert is worth a late flier pick if you have enough roster space

KICKER

The Bengals’ kicker is not Jake Elliot and not Jonathan Brown. Instead it is Randy Bullock. Bullock is your typical, mediocre NFL kicker who has made less than 83 percent of his career kicks and is easily replaceable. But a kicker’s value in fantasy is often tied to factors other than their skills as a kicker. Primarily, their value is often tied to how good their offense is at moving the ball and putting the kicker into scoring situations.

Last season the Bengals finished 25th in scoring in the NFL. The offense (hopefully) will be better, but are unlikely to make a monumental jump forward to put Bullock into the top 12 kickers, and therefore worth drafting in your fantasy draft. Also, if you are in a league that gives silly bonus points for extra long field goals, then Bullock’s value goes from poor to non-existent as he has only made one kick of 50 yards over the past three seasons (by comparison Elliot made five of those last year alone, and even Jonathan Brown made one in his only NFL game action ever).

Conclusion: Do not draft Bullock.

DEFENSE

Fantasy defenses generate the bulk of their fantasy points on defensive touchdowns and turnovers. Both are fluky and difficult to predict, and rarely repeat from year to year. As a result, the top fantasy defenses often change from year-to-year.

Case in point, the Jacksonville Jaguars were a bottom five fantasy defense two years ago with only 13 turnovers and two defensive touchdowns. Last year those totals jumped up to 33 turnovers and EIGHT defensive touchdowns, and they finished as the top unit by a large margin.

Many fantasy owners will draft the Jaguars as the top defense, chasing last year’s unrepeatable touchdowns and turnovers. Defenses are often drafted based on the touchdowns and turnovers they randomly got in the previous season, meaning the Bengals are going undrafted. But they have enough good players (Atkins, Dunlap, Billings, Burfict, Jackson III, etc…) to be a solid NFL defense if they can get any help from their offense. Nobody knows who the top fantasy defenses will be in 2018, because nobody knows how many touchdowns or turnovers a team will generate, so the Bengals are worth as much of a late round gamble as any other defense. With their collection of talented players the Bengals should have a solid NFL defense, and are a draftable defense.

Conclusion: The Bengals’ defense is worth a late round flier.

What do you think? Let us know your questions or comments below.


Disclaimer: In the past 17 years I’ve won the championship in exactly 50% of the leagues I’ve participated in. Over that span, I’ve been able to learn what some of the key factors are in building a good team that will give you the best chance for fantasy football success. In these posts, my goal is to share some of what I’ve learned with our readers to help them build better fantasy football teams.