This is an installment of the fantasy football team showcase, a twice a week presentation of each NFL team’s top fantasy players by position. This week’s analysis will round out the AFC North teams. Check out our analysis on the Cleveland Browns.
With these articles you will find a player from each key position to target in fantasy football. The lists will consist as to why they are chosen as the top player for their respective positions and teams, players poised to breakout or as sleepers, 2pt specialists and a new format based off of individual defensive players.
Cincinnati Bengals Analysis
The Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1 record and 2nd in the AFC North) are coming off of a 2014 season where they once again could not get passed the first round of the playoffs. The Bengals were by the Indianapolis Colts during Wild Card weekend. The Bengals found their feature running back last season in Jeremy Hill, who burst onto the scene with over 1,000 yards rushing. They also moved on from former first round tight end Jermaine Gresham and is looking for Tyler Eifert to be a big part of the offense. On defense, the Bengals brought back former defensive standout Michael Johnson after one season in Tampa Bay. The Bengals beefed up their offensive line this offseason through the draft, who could come in and play early on. They also added some pieces on defense that should not be expected to make an impact as rookies.
QB Andy Dalton: 2014 was a down year for the highly paid quarterback. Dalton ranked 19th among all quarterbacks in total fantasy points, which for his salary and offensive weapons is too low. I expect Dalton to bounce back this season with a healthy AJ Green and a more consistent tight end in Tyler Eifert leading the team in receiving. Dalton should not be looked at as a top tier fantasy quarterback, but do not be afraid to pick him up later in drafts with high upside.
WR AJ Green: It was an injury riddled season for the all pro, although he still surpassed 1,000 yards receiving. Green did end up ranking 23rd among receivers in fantasy points, but expect that number to be in the top 10 or even the top 5 with Green’s talent. When healthy Green is a top 5 receiver in the entire league and should be drafted like so.
RB Jeremy Hill: The former LSU Tiger came into Cincinnati last season expecting to have carries while sitting behind Giovani Bernard. It did not take long for Hill to take over the starting role in the offense and surpass all expectations as a rookie rushing for over 1,100 yards and ranking 10th among all running backs in fantasy points. Expect Hill to continue that trend heading into his sophomore season, and I see him as a potential first or second round running back in all formats.
RB Giovani Bernard: The speedy do-it-all running back was dethroned last season as the lead back for the Bengals, but still made his contributions to the offense. Bernard still found his way as the 18th overall running back in fantasy last season, and don’t expect him to become an afterthought in the Bengals offense. I see Bernard as a solid flex player in fantasy and one of the better number backs in all of football.
TE Tyler Eifert: The former Fighting Irish tight end is finally getting his opportunity to be the number one tight end in Cincinnati with the free agent departure of Jermain Gresham. Expect Eifert who is coming off of an elbow injury and was sidelined in all but one game to produce better numbers than his former teammate. Eifert is sure handed and athletic, and with more targets and opportunities he should be a solid fantasy tight end option. I would consider Eifert as a solid tight end/ flex player in fantasy this coming season.
WR Mohamed Sanu: Sanu got his opportunity to be the number one receiver in Cincinnati last season when Green and Marvin Jones were both sidelined. Although his numbers were average, Sanu showed that he can be a reliable number receiver opposite Green. Sanu ranked 29th among receivers in fantasy and I expect those numbers to be similar heading into this season. Sanu is a receiver who could be considered in the late rounds of drafts and as insurance incase Green goes down with an injury.
DL Geno Atkins: The all pro lineman had a down season last year, coming off of an ACL tear in 2013. Expect Atkins to have a monster season this year and to be at full strength moving forward. In fantasy leagues and certain formats, Atkins should be the unquestioned leader on a strong Bengals defense.
LB Vontaze Burfict: Is coming off of a knee surgery this offseason and his return is still uncertain. After a down year being injured last season, Burfict is looking to come back healthy and back to normal. If all goes well with his rehab, Burfict should be back to his normal self as the leading tackler for the Bengals defense. I would be wary about drafting him in leagues, but as a guy to keep an eye on down the road.
DL Carlos Dunlap: The Gator had a monster season after being inked to a big time contract last offseason. Dunlap ranked third among all defensive lineman in fantasy points and is looking to repeat those numbers this coming season. Dunlap should be considered one of the top defensive lineman in terms of fantasy relevance this coming season.
DB Reggie Nelson: Nelson brought stability to the back end of the Bengals defense last season, which saw him rank 14th among all defensive backs in fantasy. Nelson was just shy of triple digit tackles and produced four interceptions for a depleted Bengals defense. Look for Nelson to bring that same fire and instinct to a stronger defense as one of the top players in fantasy for defensive backs.
K Mike Nugent: Nugent ranked as the 15th overall kicker in fantasy last season converting 26 out of 33 field goal attempts, and all 39 extra points. Nugent is a middle of the road kicker and should be considered as so when looking for fantasy kickers.
2Pt Specialist: With the extra point line being pushed back to the 15 yard line teams might consider going for two after touchdowns this coming season. Some of the key players to look for the Bengals to rely on in these situations should be Jeremy Hill, the 2014 Pro Bowl back provides the Bengals with both run and pass game skills. Another guy to look for is the sure handed jump ball receiver AJ Green, who can post up and out jump most defensive backs. The last player to consider is the shifty back Giovani Bernard, who uses his catching ability, speed and quickness to beat linebackers and safeties in the open field.
Rookie Impact: For the Bengals, there are not many rookies coming in who are expected to make an impact early on. The top two picks were both offensive lineman, and don’t expect Cedric Ogbuehi to be rushed into action after a torn ACL last winter. Also, former Oregon Duck Jake Fisher will be brought along slowly as a rotational backup at guard and tackle. The only rookie who should be expected to see some consistent playing time this season is third round tight end Tyler Kroft out of Rutgers, who is competing to be the tight end opposite Tyler Eifert in two tight end sets. Rookie defenders Paul Dawson and Josh Shaw should not be expected to play early on, but to compete on special teams in their first season. The Bengals have no rookies who provide fantasy value this coming season.
The Cincinnati Bengals head into the 2015 season looking to get past the first round of the playoffs, needing both sides of the ball to come together collectively. The only person holding back the Bengals from making a serious Super Bowl run is their quarterback Andy Dalton, who can’t seem to put together consistent effort in the playoffs. If Dalton can play better overall, and if key players such as AJ Green and Geno Atkins can stay healthy, with one of the best overall rosters in the NFL the Bengals should to be serious contenders in the AFC.
Next week will start the NFC South Division
*All fantasy numbers and rankings are from fantasydata.com
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