Contributions from Joshua Hudson, Chris Molina, Joe Zollo, & Chris Tyler
The Bengals had a mixed bag on draft day: Jonah Williams was a home run; Drew Sample was a bit of a reach for me; and Finley in the fourth was good value for a potential starter with good accuracy, or a high level backup. And they double dipped at RB in the sixth, snagging Trayveon Williams and Rodney Anderson. Williams has the potential to handle Giovani Bernard’s role in the future, while Anderson, if healthy, has starter upside. There are some depth pieces here, but outside of Williams, no real potential home runs. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
The offense starts and ends with Andy Dalton, but which version will show up? The 2013 Dalton who was a top 10 fantasy QB? Or the Andy Dalton from every other year that seemingly ends in disappointment? Dalton has no shortage of weapons: Joe Mixon is ascending towards becoming one of the better running backs in the league; A.J. Green, when healthy, is one of the best wide receivers in the game; Tyler Boyd made a big jump in his third season to be a legitimate Robin to Green’s Batman; and Tyler Eifert (if he ever gets healthy) and C.J. Uzomah are both admirable performers at the tight end position. Add in Giovani Bernard’s steady presence as a third down back, and you have the makings of an upper echelon offense. They just need a field general. The upside of all those weapons lies in the hands of Dalton. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
The Bengals started the 2018-2019 season 4-1. They finished 2-9 down the stretch with Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, and Tyler Boyd on IR. It was a disaster. However, let’s look at the positives. It finally got Marvin Lewis out of town- Andy Dalton will be playing for his job. They also hired Zac Taylor to call the plays in 2019 (he once had lunch with Sean McVay). There is some upside to be had on this offense. The biggest upside for the price though is clear. It’s Tyler Boyd. Tyler Boyd had 76 receptions, 1,028 yards, and seven touchdowns. This was good for WR16 for Weeks 1-16. However, the way last season ended for the Bengals has Tyler Boyd flying under the radar. Let me explain why.
Even though Boyd was the WR16 last year, he was the WR31 between weeks 10-16. That could leave a sour taste in the mouth of any fantasy player that had Boyd last year. However, A.J. Green only played in one of those games. Dalton was knocked out of the season in Week 11. When you are the only receiving option on a Marvin Lewis offense, with Jeff Driskell throwing the ball, you are going to have a bad go of it (WR14 from weeks 1-9). Green and Dalton are healthy heading into the upcoming season.
Boyd had a 20% target share and caught 26% of the Bengals receiving touchdowns in 2018. His 14-game stats extrapolate into 87 receptions, 1,175 yards, and eight touchdowns over a full 16-game season. This is despite the fantasy drop off when everyone else was getting injured. Those numbers would put him as a borderline WR1. He’s being drafted in the sixth round right now on Sleeper and is the WR27 off the board. I told you, for that price, there is tremendous upside. This is especially true considering he’s being taken after Mike Williams and right before D.J. Moore in the sixth. Williams was WR31 last year and Moore was WR39.
Boyd is a safe WR2 heading into next season. He put up borderline WR1 numbers when he was across the field from Green and had Dalton throwing him the ball. Insert Zac Taylor (remember, he hung out with McVay once) and consider Boyd’s draft price. Hard to find a potential WR1 in the sixth round with a floor as safe as Boyd’s. Upside galore. – Chris Molina
A.J. Green is often thought of as one of the better receivers in the league. Since he entered the league in 2011, Green is fifth in receptions, and fourth in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He has been a consistent top 10 drafted receiver in Fantasy over this time. So why is he our Downside candidate going into 2019? The obvious reason is injuries. But a deeper dive into the stats shows a player transitioning to a different role in the offense.
Let’s start with the stats. Green played in nine games last year as a result of injury. During those nine games, Green had the highest market share on the team at 25% of the team’s targets. But he had the second most receptions and receiving yards behind third year receiver Tyler Boyd. One of Green’s biggest issues throughout his career has been catch percentage. He’s always seen a ton of targets — four times he’s topped 130 targets and has averaged 10.8 targets per game over his career — but catching them has been an issue. Only twice has Green had greater than a 60% catch percentage. He also has been credited with 47 drops in eight years, an average of almost six per season. As a nominal number one receiver gets older, they typically transition into the role of a possession receiver, running more underneath routes to help the team move the chains. (Cardinals great Larry Fitzgerald is a prime example.) It’s hard to make that transition if you can’t catch 60% of the targets heading your way.
On the injury front, Green has played only two full seasons over his last five — one over the last three. The team spent a top 10 pick on WR John Ross two years ago (is a third year jump on the horizon for Ross, a la Boyd in 2018?) and Boyd finally showed his potential last season. Green will be 31 during the 2019 season. Last season, he tied for the lowest aDOT of his career and had the lowest YAC of his career. He also had fewer red zone touchdowns than both Tyler Boyd and John Ross last season. I don’t care if you missed half a season- when you’re outproduced by John Ross in just about any category, you’re not trending in the right direction. Green doesn’t offer the same type of explosion as a receiver he once did. If I had to guess, he’ll still be the team’s number one receiver, but Tyler Boyd showed his potential last year. You’ll see more of a split in production, yet Green’s ADP on Sleeper is currently in the third round at WR11, while Boyd is in the seventh at WR28. I think Green is a top 20 receiver, but WR11? In the third round? Count me out on that price. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Remember when the guy you trusted the most on the Bengals was A.J. Green? Those were the days. But he has officially passed that mantle to RB Joe Mixon. After entering the league in 2017 shrouded in controversy due to a horrific video of him punching a woman at a diner, and subsequently delivering disappointing statistics his rookie season, Mixon came into his own during his sophomore campaign. His 4.9 yards per carry was tied for eleventh at the position last year and he had 237 carries in only 14 games. It’s fair to assume that with a full workload, he can top 250 carries and 60 targets. Volume is king in Fantasy, and Mixon provides it.
Arguably the biggest reason to love the RB1 floor of Mixon is that despite Giovani Bernard’s presence on the team — he’s been a prolific third down option for them in the past — Mixon had more targets than Bernard last season. That shows that the team views Mixon as a true three-down workhorse. Mixon also had the second highest number of runs over 15 yards last year, behind only Ezekiel Elliott (and three more than Saquon Barkley). By beefing up the offensive line with first round pick Jonah Williams (thus moving former starting LT Cordy Glenn inside to guard), Mixon should have even more room to run. He doesn’t have the most advanced metrics in the passing game, but the fact that he’s involved is enough to love him in fantasy. Mixon should yield RB1 numbers and is well worth the late first/early second round pick you’ll likely have to spend on him to procure his services. – The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
The Bengals got a huge steal in Trayveon Williams in the sixth round of the draft. As the SECs leading rusher last year, he needs to be discussed more by analysts. First off, he is small at 5’8 206lbs, but that doesn’t take anything away from his power. Second, with his low center of gravity, his exceptional vision makes him dangerous in between the tackles. Williams also has breakaway speed as well. Any time he hits the second level, he’s hard to take down. The former Aggie also has great hands, posting 66 catches for 561 yards. With Joe Mixon and Giovanni Bernard in front of him, he’s not likely your focus, but he has the skill set to take over if either suffers a serious injury. Trayveon Williams is a special kind of back and we will definitely see that for future seasons to come. – Chris Tyler
This is not a sleeper column, this is a “John Ross sucks at football” column. I was big on this guy as a sleeper last year and he was an incredible disappointment. He played in 10 more games in 2018 than he did in 2017, but it was almost like he didn’t play at all. He caught 21 of his 58 targets (yes, that is a 36% catch rate) for 210 yards and seven touchdowns. The only good news about him is that 33% of his receptions went for touchdowns. Ross cannot consistently stay healthy, and even when he is healthy, he is a god awful football player. He can run straight. That’s about it. Ross has hands like bricks and his health like an old dog. I hope you enjoyed this “John Ross sucks as football” venting session. I encourage you to see your local doctor to be checked for a brain tumor if you are still considering, or have considered, drafting John Ross. – Joe Zollo
This is yet another defense where there really isn’t much action in terms of fantasy football. The biggest name on the team, Geno Atkins, is one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL, but the only issue is that he cannot translate his incredible play into fantasy points. He finished twenty-ninth last season with 99 points, which is not a bad amount of points, but there are definitely better players you can draft at his position. Low name players like Larry Ogunjobi and Jarran Reed finished higher than Atkins last year in fantasy, but clearly are not the same type of player Geno is.
Looking at the Linebackers, there is no point to draft any of them. The secondary is where the value lies on this team. Cincinnati had two of the Top 6 DBs in fantasy football last season and I guarantee if you aren’t a Bengals fan, you would have no clue of their names. Shawn Williams and Jessie Bates finished second and sixth, respectively, last year in fantasy football. For Williams, it was a career year in terms of turnovers and tackles. For Bates, it was his first year coming out of Wake Forest and he did not disappoint- over 100 tackles and three interceptions. It’s not a flashy secondary with household names, but these guys are willing to tackle and do the dirty work, which is exactly what you want from your DBs. – Joe Zollo