QB Andy Dalton
(2012 QB Rank – #12, 20.5 FPts/G)
The truth of the matter is that during his two years in the league, Dalton has proven to be a much better player in real football terms than as a fantasy player. With two straight trips to the postseason under his leadership, the Bengals can’t be disappointed with having used a second-round pick to acquire the Texas Christian product in the 2011 draft. The question is whether he is ready to make a fantasy leap forward in 2013. Comments from the team’s management and coaching staff clearly indicate they want Dalton to take more chances this season in hopes of propelling the team deeper into the postseason (they have lost in the wild card round in each of their playoff appearances). With the superlative A.J. Green at wide receiver, as well as numerous young players that could emerge, a pair of pass-catching tight ends, and a new pass-catching option at running back in rookie second-round pick Giovani Bernard, Dalton has plenty of options to throw to. Include one of the league’s better offensive lines, and it’s clear that Dalton is surrounded by plenty of talent in Cincinnati. We’re just going to have to see it happen before we draft him as a QB1. Consider Dalton a mid-tier QB2 with upside in 2013.
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
(2012 RB Rank – #19, 10.4 FPts/G; #22 PPR, 11.9 FPts/G)
Having moved on from Cedric Benson, the Bengals signed BenJarvus Green-Ellis prior to the 2012 season and he had a solid first season in Cincinnati. Green-Ellis topped 1,000 rushing yards for the second time in his five-year career, finishing with 1,094 yards and six touchdowns. He doesn’t offer much wiggle as a rusher and also lacks top-end speed, but he gets what is blocked and rarely fumbles (the two fumbles he had in 2012 were the first two of his career). Given Green-Ellis’s limitations, it was no surprise when the Bengals used a second-round pick on Giovani Bernard, but his acquisition didn’t torpedo Green-Ellis’s fantasy value since they are completely different runners. Look for Green-Ellis to retain his starting role but see his touches drop to the 250 range from the 300 he had last year. That should be good enough for him to finish 2013 as a mid-tier RB3.
RB Giovani Bernard
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
Lacking playmaking speed out of the backfield, the Bengals used the 37th pick in the 2013 draft on Giovani Bernard, making him the first running back taken. The 5’10”, 205-pound North Carolina product is expected to open the season working as a change-of-pace back and as the team’s main receiving weapon out of the backfield. However, BenJarvus Green-Ellis’s limitations are well known, so Bernard figures to have an opportunity to earn an increased role as the season progresses. For that to happen, Bernard will need to avoid turning the ball over and become a more physical runner between the tackles. Look for him to earn a bigger split of the work in the Bengals backfield as the season progresses but to remain in a complimentary role to Green-Ellis for all of 2013. That makes him a great flex option with upside as a low-end RB3.
RB Bernard Scott
(2012 RB Rank – #135, 1.8 FPts/G; #139 PPR, 1.8 FPts/G)
During the 2012 offseason, the Bengals signed free agent running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis from the New England Patriots. During the 2013 offseason, Cincinnati used a second-round pick to acquire North Carolina speedster Giovani Bernard. Do you think the writing is on the wall for Scott? After four largely non-descript seasons in Cincinnati and a 2012 season in which injuries forced him to miss 14 games, Scott was forced to re-sign with the Bengals after failing to receive a decent offer from one of the league’s other 31 teams. He will battle Cedric Peerman and sixth-round pick Rex Burkhead for a roster spot in 2013.
RB Cedric Peerman
(2012 RB Rank – #69, 4.0 FPts/G; #72 PPR, 4.9 FPts/G)
Peerman has kicked around the league for the last four seasons, contributing mostly on special teams. While he has looked good in preseason contests, he failed to earn much playing time until last season when he stepped in for an injured Bernard Scott to back up BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He was surprisingly solid, gaining 258 yards and a touchdown on just 36 carries while averaging 7.2 yards per carry. He also caught all nine of his targets for another 85 yards. While Peerman isn’t worth drafting, there is an outside chance he could emerge as a flex option if starter Green-Ellis were lost to injury.
RB Rex Burkhead
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
While Burkhead lacks the athleticism to emerge as a starting running back, the Nebraska product has solid chance to earn a position on the Bengals roster as a rookie. The sixth-round pick will battle the disappointing Bernard Scott and veteran journeyman Cedric Peerman for a roster spot. If he wins a spot, he might be worth grabbing in dynasty leagues given BenJarvus Green-Ellis’s limitations as a rusher. If rookie second-round pick Giovani Bernard emerges as a starter, the Bengals may not wish to pay the tab required to keep the Law Firm around as a backup, and Burkhead’s game very much resembles his.
WR A.J. Green
(2012 WR Rank – #4, 12.8 FPts/G; #3 PPR, 18.9 FPts/G)
After putting together a Pro Bowl season as a rookie in 2011 with 65 receptions for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns in 15 games, more was expected of A.J. Green last season, and it’s safe to say the Bengals weren’t disappointed. The 24-year old Georgia product scored ten touchdowns in his first ten games on his way to a 97-reception, 1,350-yard, 11-touchdown season. The sky is the limit for Green and he is in the conversation as the league’s second best wide receiver behind the Lions’ Calvin Johnson. In fact, if not for the other contenders having more proven quarterbacks throwing them the ball, there might not be any conversation as to who is Johnson’s heir apparent as the league’s next top receiver. Unfortunately, Andy Dalton’s arm strength and lack of deep ball accuracy hold Green back a bit. Consider Green a lock to be a top five WR in 2013, and don’t be surprised if he winds up second.
WR Mohamed Sanu
(2012 WR Rank – #94, 6.8 FPts/G; #101 PPR, 9.5 FPts/G)
The book on Sanu coming out of Rutgers as a third-round pick in the 2012 draft was that he was an outstanding possession receiver with good hands. With 16 receptions for 154 yards and four touchdowns in nine games, Sanu proved he was a solid red zone target before a stress fracture in his left foot ended his season. While Sanu hauled in 11 passes for 98 yards and four touchdowns in his final four games as the Bengals made a clear decision to get him more involved, it is hard to get very excited by a possession receiver who is big but not that big (6’2”, 210 pounds), lacks speed and playmaking ability (9.6 yards per receptions) and plays in an offense that added skill position players in the first and second rounds of the draft (tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard). Did we mention that his starting position isn’t even guaranteed? There are many mouths to feed in Cincinnati, and since one of those mouths is A.J. Green’s, we feel there are better players worth taking a flier on in 2013 than Sanu.
WR Marvin Jones
(2012 WR Rank – #106, 3.9 FPts/G; #110 PPR, 6.1 FPts/G)
Entering the league as a fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft, Jones had a good opportunity to earn significant playing time due to the lack of experienced options to play opposite A.J. Green. Unfortunately, the 6’3”, 200-pound California product was largely disappointing, hauling in just 18 receptions for 201 yards and a score through eleven games, which included five starts. Jones finished the season strongly, however, catching 10 passes for 110 yards and a score in his final two games. He has more upside as a receiver than his main competition, fellow second-year player Mohamed Sanu, but the Bengals seem content to roll with a possession receiver at that No. 2 spot. Monitor Jones’ preseason progress, but at this point he is waiver-wire material in redraft leagues.
WR Andrew Hawkins
(2012 WR Rank – #61, 5.7 FPts/G; #57 PPR, 9.4 FPts/G)
While Hawkins took a circuitous route to the NFL, spending a pair of seasons in the CFL, he has developed into a solid slot receiver during his two years in Cincinnati. After a decent rookie season, Hawkins emerged in 2012, hauling in 51 receptions for 533 yards and four touchdowns, totals good enough to rank second among Cincinnati’s wide receivers. Unfortunately for Hawkins, the odds are stacked against his replicating those numbers in 2013. The team added pass-catching tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round, and they are looking for second-year wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones to take a step forward. Hawkins isn’t worth owning in 2013.
WR Brandon Tate
(2012 WR Rank – #112, 2.3 FPts/G; #119 PPR, 3.3 FPts/G)
Despite flashing his playmaking skills on the practice field and as a returner during his time in Cincinnati, Tate has failed to earn consistent playing time in the team’s offense. With a pile of first- and second-year players to compete against for playing time, look for Tate to once again be relegated to a return-game role in 2013.
TE Jermaine Gresham
(2012 WR Rank – #10, 6.5 FPts/G; #10 PPR, 10.5 FPts/G)
Entering 2012, expectations were high for the Bengals’ 2010 first rounder, with Jay Gruden bringing his version of the West Coast offense to Cincinnati. While Gresham increased his receptions and yardage totals for the third straight season, finishing the year with 64 catches for 737 yards and five touchdowns, there remains a lingering feeling that he is capable of much more. Unfortunately, with the addition of first-round pick Tyler Eifert to bolster the position, Gresham’s outstanding athleticism doesn’t seem likely to translate into solid fantasy production in 2013. While the Bengals lack a proven threat opposite A.J. Green at wide receiver, and while Gresham has the talent to emerge as an upper-tier TE, he is best drafted as a TE2 once again in 2013.
TE Tyler Eifert
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
With Germaine Gresham having failed to elevate his game during his first three years in the league, the Bengals used a first-round pick on pass-catching tight end Tyler Eifert. The Notre Dame product has solid athleticism and the speed to get deep and has excelled in the red zone in college, making him a worthy selection for a team looking to add playmakers on offense. While Eifert is a solid pro prospect and an outstanding addition to your dynasty squad, the fact is that Gresham has played well enough to retain his starting job. In addition, neither player can be considered an upper-tier blocker, which means there are no guarantees they will spent the majority of the time on the field together. Don’t expect Eifert to establish himself as a fantasy option in his rookie season.