Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Bengals Fantasy Preview

Thursday, June 14, 2018


Bengals Offensive Profile Last Three Years

2015-2017 Pass Attempts Rank: 26th, 20th, 25th
2015-2017 Rush Attempts Rank: 7th, 9th, 29th
2015-2017 Play Volume Rank: 25th, 10th, 32nd
2015-2017 Yards Per Play Rank: 7th, 18th, 27th
Unaccounted for Air Yards from 2017 (Rank): -14 (32nd)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2017 (Rank): 37 (24th)

Projected Starting Lineup

QB: Andy Dalton
RB: Joe Mixon
WR: A.J. Green
WR: Brandon LaFell
WR: Tyler Boyd
TE: Tyler Eifert
LT: Cordy Glenn
LG: Clint Boling
C: Billy Price
RG: Trey Hopkins
RT: Jake Fisher

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Passing Game Outlook

A sum-of-his-parts quarterback, Andy Dalton’s 2017 was ruined by supporting-cast depletion. Red-zone difference-maker Tyler Eifert lasted two games before undergoing his third career back surgery. The Bengals let LT Andrew Whitworth and RG Kevin Zeitler walk, and the offensive line left behind was an unmitigated disaster. First-round WR John Ross got on the field for 17 snaps. Cincinnati could not sustain offense, finishing dead last in yards per drive (24.2) and plays from scrimmage (927). The good news is the performance of the players around Dalton can’t get worse, and the Bengals landed O-Line upgrades in ex-Bills LT Cordy Glenn and first-round C Billy Price. The bad news is too much still rides on Eifert’s balky body, and Cincinnati has settled for conservative, low-volume offense on Marvin Lewis’ post-Jay Gruden, post-Hue Jackson watch. Dalton has finished in the QB16-18 range in four straight years. At this point, Dalton’s main selling point is job security as a QB2/3 late-round roster builder in best-ball leagues.

A.J. Green stayed on course in the chaos, topping 1,000 yards for the sixth time in seven seasons despite a career-worst 52.4% catch rate symptomatic of Cincinnati’s shortage of alternative threats. AJG is 30 years old, but Josh Hermsmeyer’s Game Speed data showed Green has maintained well-above-par speed on routes within 12 ½ yards of the line of scrimmage. Green has never been a true downfield burner, instead winning in the vertical game with ball skills and body control. Although his weekly consistency is often lacking, Green has finished as a top-12 wideout in fantasy points per game in 7-of-7 NFL seasons. He warrants re-draft consideration anywhere in the second round.

Journeyman Brandon LaFell, 2017 first-rounder John Ross, and third-year slot WR Tyler Boyd will vie for non-Green wideout targets. LaFell enters his age-31/32 campaign with one career 900-yard season after failing to capitalize on Eifert’s 2017 absence with a pedestrian 52/548/3 receiving line. Ross didn’t catch a pass, and now enters a worrisome cohort of first-round wideouts who didn’t produce as rookies, then became outright busts. The same cohort includes A.J. Jenkins, Kevin White, Phillip Dorsett, Breshad Perriman, Laquon Treadwell, Mike Williams, and Josh Doctson. After a mildly promising rookie season in 2016 (54/603/1), Boyd missed three games with an MCL injury and three more due to a falling out with the coaching staff. Boyd did finish somewhat strong with back-to-back five-catch games in Weeks 16 and 17. Boyd’s 49-yard game-winning touchdown in the season finale eliminated division-rival Baltimore from the playoffs. A deeper sleeper for targets is 2017 fourth-round pick Josh Malone, a plus-sized (6’3/208) 4.4-flat field stretcher who earned a 38% playing-time clip from Weeks 7-17 as a rookie.

 

Editor's Note: The 2018 Rotoworld Draft Guide provides more than 500 extensive player profiles, tiers, projections, Evan Silva’s Sleepers and Busts and much more. Get the NFL Draft Guide now.



Tyler Eifert re-signed on a one-year, $5.5 million prove-it deal after appearing in just 24-of-64 games (37.5%) over the past four seasons. He missed 15 games in 2014 with a dislocated elbow, had shoulder surgery after that season, sat out three late-season games in 2015 with a back injury and concussion, then damaged an ankle ligament in the Pro Bowl and underwent late-May surgery, costing Eifert the first six games of 2016. While rehabbing the ankle, Eifert sustained a back injury. He played through it down the 2016 stretch, then missed Weeks 16-17 to have his back surgically repaired. Last year, Eifert reinjured his back, required another surgery, and underwent an additional procedure to have a cyst removed from his knee. Eifert declared himself “100 percent” in March, but suffered an apparent setback before minicamp. Marvin Lewis announced Eifert was questionable for training camp. Eifert is an elite touchdown scorer with a career 15.7% TD rate (TDs/receptions), but Eifert’s sustained back problems have made him very difficult to draft.

Running Game Outlook

Joe Mixon was mainly the lead part of the Bengals’ 2017 backfield committee, logging over 50% of offensive snaps in just 7-of-14 appearances. Mixon did top 50% in five straight games during Weeks 8-12, then missed two with a concussion. His efficiency was poor behind an offensive line that finished 23rd in yards created before contact (PFF) and 24th in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards. The Bengals also faced the NFL's third-toughest schedule of run defenses. Mixon’s 3.52 yards per carry, 41% Success Rate (37th among 47 qualified backs), and below-average Game Speed were still red flags. It’s notable that Cincinnati’s 2017 ranking of 29th in rushing attempts was very out of character for a Marvin Lewis-coached team; Lewis’ offenses ranked top ten in rushing attempts in each of the previous four years. The Bengals are also headed for positive rushing-TD regression after scoring just six last year, third fewest in the league. Mixon admitted to falling out of shape before his rookie season and played at 230 pounds. Per Bengals.com, Mixon slimmed down to 218 this offseason. Ultimately, Mixon’ breakout potential is contingent on holding off Giovani Bernard for a featured touch share. For what it’s worth, director of player personnel Duke Tobin said at February’s Combine that Mixon will be the Bengals’ “bellcow” in 2018.

Giovani Bernard saw fewer than ten touches in each of the first 11 games, then took on a far bigger Weeks 13-17 role following Mixon’s concussion, starting two of the final five weeks and averaging 20.6 touches per game for 101.4 yards with two TDs. Albeit in a smaller sample, Gio was more efficient than Mixon in both the run and pass games and arguably earned a bigger 2018 role. One probably minor concern is that Cincinnati drafted Mark Walton, a fourth-rounder out of Miami with similar skills to Gio. I don’t think we should expect to have a strong feel for the Mixon-Bernard split before Week 1, but their preseason distribution of first-team reps will be worth close monitoring.

2018 Vegas Win Total

The Bengals’ Win Total opened at 7.0 with -120 odds to the under. Working in Cincinnati’s favor is schedule strength Warren Sharp rated 13th softest in football, including the NFL’s eighth-easiest slate of pass defenses. AFC North rivals Baltimore and Cleveland are plenty beatable. Outside the division, Cincinnati draws the uneven AFC West and daunting NFC South, plus Indianapolis (away) and Miami (home). Lewis has never gotten it done in the playoffs, but he’s won seven games or more in six of the last seven years. Needed offensive-line upgrades were made, while the Bengals’ solid defensive nucleus returns save WLB Vontaze Burfict’s four-game PEDs suspension. Cincinnati’s organizational acceptance of mediocrity – visible in their longstanding commitments to Dalton and Lewis – puts a cap on the Bengals’ ceiling but raises their annual won-loss floor. Especially at better odds, I like over 7.0 wins.



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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