|By Shawn Childs, Thursday, August 1, 2019|
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The Bengals would like to have success running the ball to keep their defense off the field. Last year they gained 4.7 yards per carry, but Cinci averaged only 22.4 rushes per game. The change of coaching staff should transition this offense to a run-first style. If they run the ball well, the passing game should naturally open up.
QB Andy Dalton - Quality Backup
Update 12/29/19Last week Dalton had his best game (396/4) of the season, with much of the damage coming late in the fourth quarter. Over his first 11 games, Dalton has 11 TDs and 13 Ints while passing for over 300 yards in three contests. In Week 14, he passed for 262 yards with no TDs vs. the Browns. Cleveland dropped to 19th in QB defense (21.47 FPPG) after struggling to defend Lamar Jackson (33.20 Fantasy points). The Browns allow 7.3 yards per pass attempt with 24 passing TDs. Dalton doesn’t have the resume to support another big game. Cinci scored two TDs or fewer in each of their first 14 games.
QB Ryan Finley - Solid/Safe Pick
Update 11/09/19Finley will make his NFL debut this week after the Bengals drafted him in the 4th round in 2019. Over his previous three seasons at North Carolina State, he passed for 10,505 yards with 60 TDs and 25 Ints with best year coming in 2018 (3,928 passing yards with 25 TDs and 11 Ints). After eight games, the Bengalsï¾’ QBs passed for 2,251 yards and nine TDs. The Ravens climbed to 11th to QB defense (18.98 FPPG), with six opponents scoring fewer than 20.0 Fantasy points at QB. Tough sledding should be expected.
RB Joe Mixon - Stud (low risk)
Update 12/14/19After a long wait, Mixon shined in Week 14 (186 combined yards with one TD and three catches on 26 touches). He finished with third-most Fantasy points (27.60) in PPR leagues, lifting him to 17th in RB scoring (12.84 FPPG). Over his last six games, he gained 666 combined yards with four TDs and 14 catches or 18.43 Fantasy points per game. Over this span, Mixon averaged 22.7 touches per game. New England still ranks first in the NFL vs. RBs (15.77 FPPG) with no team scoring over 25.0 Fantasy points. The Patriots allow 4.2 yards per rush with RBs scoring four TDs. Trending along with his salary, but this matchup limits his playability in the daily games.
RB Giovani Bernard - Quality Backup
Update 09/16/19Draftkings took the layup play out of Bernard after seeing Joe Mixon get hurt last week. In a relief role against the Seahawks, he gained 63 yards on nine touches with two catches. If Mixon is out, look for Bernard to see the bulk of the RB action for the Bengals. His matched has upside if given the full show against the 49ers.
RB Trayveon Williams - Dynasty Only
In his three seasons at Texas A&M, Williams flashed impact value in two years. He gained 6.8 yards per rush leading to 1,148 combined yards with eight TDs and 19 catches his freshman year. In 2017, Trayveon saw his yards per rush fall to 4.6 with a slide in overall production (990 combined yards with eight TDs and 20 catches). Last year he regained his explosiveness (6.5 yards per carry), which led to 2,048 combined yards with 19 TDs and 27 catches on 298 touches. This season he'll start the year as the third-string RB for Cinci.
WR Auden Tate - Solid/Safe Pick
Update 10/19/19Over four games with starting snaps, Tate caught 18 passes for 255 yards and one TD on 33 targets while playing three good defenses (BUF, PIT, and BAL) on the road. The Bengals gave him double targets in two of his four starts. CB A.J. Bouye is a top CB. His last TD allowed came in 2017, but he’ll allow some big plays. I’m sure Tate won’t be shadowed, but this isn’t an ideal matchup while having a rising salary.
WR Tyler Boyd - Solid/Safe Pick
Update 12/29/19Miami didn’t have an answer for Boyd in the fourth quarter last week, which led to his best game (9/128/2) of the year. Over his last 12 games, he gained fewer than 70 yards in nine games with two other disaster games (3/10 and 1/0). Boyd is a much better player at home (123.8 Fantasy points – seven games) than on the road (102.2 Fantasy points – eight games) in DraftKings scoring. His previous top three games (10/122, 10/123/1, and 5/101/1) all came in Cincinnati. In Week 14, the Browns held him to five catches for 75 yards on seven targets. Cleveland climbed to 9th in WR defense (30.54 FPPG – 171/2161/11 on 279 targets) after holding the Ravens’ WRs to four catches for 37 yards. Four WRs have over 100 yards receiving against the Browns (A.J. Brown – 3/100, Brandin Cooks – 8/112, Cooper Kupp – 11/102/2, and James Washington – 4/111/1) plus Julian Edelman (8/78/2) had success. CB T.J. Carrie has weakness in coverage, but Boyd now has a much higher salary. I can’t see chasing last week’s points here.
WR A.J. Green - Stud (low risk)
Green played well over his first eight games (45/687/6 on 76 targets), but a toe injury cost him close to the remainder of the season. His catch rate (59.2) came in short for the second straight year (52.4 in 2017). Green had five catches or more in seven games and six games of value (6/92/1. 5/69/3, 4/78/1, 6/112, 7/117, and 5/76/1). His success over a full season would have led to 90 catches for 1,374 yards and 12 TDs or 299.4 Fantasy points in PPR leagues (an eighth-place finish in 2018 at WR). Green has been injured in three of his last five seasons with his failure coming in even years. Top 10 WR in talent, but his lack of stats will lead to him falling in the WR rankings in 2019. A floor of 85+ catches for 1,200+ yards with double-digit TDs if he plays a full season.
WR John Ross - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Update 12/29/19Ross played better last week (6/84), which was helped by a season-high 13 targets. His season started with two exceptional games (7/158/2 and 4/112/1), but a foot injury cost him eight weeks of action. CB Greedy Williams plays well in coverage with only one TD allowed. Homerun type player with a chance at TD.
WR Alex Erickson - Solid/Safe Pick
Update 10/26/19The under the radar flash player in Week 7 was Erickson. He caught eight of his 14 targets for 137 yards with starting snaps after Cinci promoted him to WR3 status in Week 6. Over his previous six games, Erickson only had 11 catches for 109 yards on 15 targets. Only a trap for now.
TE Tyler Eifert - Gamble (high risk)
Update 09/16/19Eifert only saw the field for 49 percent of the plays run by Cinci in Week 1 compared to 70 percent by C.J. Uzomah. He did catch all five of his targets while gaining only 27 yards. The 49ers will be game planning to slow down the Bengals’ top two WRs, which may lead to a TD by Eifert and possibly some long catches. Only a gamble in the daily games.
TE C.J. Uzomah - Deep-league Only
Last season Uzomah led the Bengals' TEs in catches (43) and receiving yards (439). He scored three TDs while averaging four targets per game. C.J. didn't gain over 55 yards in any game. He scored over ten Fantasy points in PPR leagues in two contests (6/54 and 4/49/1). Boring type TE option that only works as a bye week cover or short-term injury fill in if he's getting starting snaps.
PK Randy Bullock - Not Draft Worthy
Over 79 games in his career in the NFL over six seasons, Randy has been successful in 82.8 percent of his field goal tries. In his rookie season, he missed nine of 22 chances from 40 yards or more. Randy showed growth his next season (30-for-35) with stable value from 50 yards or more (4-for-5), but he failed to land a full time kicking gig in 2015 and 2016. In his career, Bullock is 8-for-17 from 50 yards or more with eight extra-point kicks missed in 109 chances over the last four years. In his two seasons with the Bengals, Randy made 37 of 43 his field chances with three of six going through the uprights from 50 yards or more. Only a waiver wire option with occasional playable value.
Cincinnati - Quality Backup
The Bengals allowed the fourth-most rushing yards (2,204) in 2018, which was created by volume (29.1 rushes per game). Ball carriers gained 4.7 yards per rush with 15 runs gaining over 20 yards. Cinci gave up 17 rushing TDs.
Their pass defense fell to last in the NFL in passing yards allowed (4,414) with 32 TDs and 12 Ints. Receivers gained over 40 yards on 13 plays. Cinci finished 34 sacks.
In his first season with playing time in the NFL after being drafted 24th in the 2016 NFL Draft, CB William Jackson posted high marks in his pass coverage ability. Last year he finished with growth in tackles (41), but he didn't record a sack or an Ints while posting similar results in defended passes (13). Jackson missed all of 2016 with a torn pectoral muscle in his chest. William needs to improve his tackling skills. His decline is play last year wasn't helped by weakness at the first and second levels of the defense. I expect Jackson to be an edge in coverage.
Dre Kirkpatrick hasn't developed into a top corner after the Bengals drafted him in the first round in 2012. Over the last four seasons, he has 49 combined defended passes with 212 tackles and four Ints. Kirkpatrick is a much better player when the Bengals' defensive line is closing the passing window with their pass rush. His season ended in December with a bum right shoulder. Dre continues to miss too many tackles while being a liability in coverage vs. top WRs and QBs.
Over the last two seasons, Darqueze Dennard stepped up his game leading to success in run support and open field tackling. Last year Dennard did allow too high of a completion rate, but most of the plays went for short yards with minimal damage in TDs. Last year he battled a calf injury. In May, Darqueze had minor knee surgery.
Shawn Williams was a disaster in many areas in 2018. He missed too many tackles while allowing a few TDs. On the positive side, Williams picked up 110 combined yards with one sack, five Ints, and nine defended passes. At best, a league average player with help at the second level of the defense for linebackers.
In his first season in the NFL Jesse Bates added value in run support with more wins than losses in his open field tackling. Bates was an asset in all areas, which led to 111 combined tackles with three Ints and seven defended passes. Jesse has the speed and short area quickness to handle his responsibilities in coverage. He plays with an attacking style that will perform well when moving toward the line of scrimmage. Jessie can struggle in the open field when asked to change direction and make tackles. His ball skills grade well while owning the vision need to have success at safety in the NFL.
Preston Brown was expected to be a nice addition to the Bengals' defense in 2018 especially with plenty of talent on the defensive line. Unfortunately, Brown missed nine games with ankle and knee injuries. Preston had over 100 tackles in all four of his seasons in the NFL with growth each year (109, 120, 139, and 144). He can make plays in coverage (14 defended passes in his career with five Ints and one TD), but he rarely gets to the QB (one career sacks). Even with nice stats, Preston ranks a below average player at his position.
In his second year in the NFL after getting drafted in the sixth round, Jordon Evans improved slightly vs. the run, but he remains a liability in coverage. Evans will be on the bench on passing downs, but Cinci can't hide him on coverage if an offense wants to pick on him on early downs. His upgrade should come in this year's draft (Germaine Pratt). Pratt improves the speed on defense while upgrading the passing defense.
Nick Virgil set a career high in tackles (84) while adding three defended passing. Virgil missed ten games over the last two seasons. His game has risk in all areas. Cinci hopes Malik Jefferson can make a step forward after seeing minimal playing time in 2018. Jefferson looks the part of starting linebacker in the NFL with his speed and power, but his lack of vision and anticipation leave him a step behind the best players in the game at his position. In college, his speed made up for his slow reaction time. Getting better as a player, but he needs to see things before they happen to be a factor in the NFL.
Geno Atkins remains one of the top passing rushing interior linemen in the league. Over the last four seasons, Atkins has 40 sacks while averaging over 40 tackles per season. His run defense has been a battle between league average and elite in his career.
The other interior lineman in the starting lineup will come from Andrew Billingsand rookie Renell Wren. Billings projects as an early-down run defense with minimal value in sacks. Wren will help as well vs. the run while adding more upside attacking the QB. Renell needs more development in his game to make an impact at the next level.
Carlos Dunlop played great vs. the run last year while adding 47 tackles and eight sacks. Dunlop remains an asset on the defensive line, but he can underperform against the run in some seasons. Jordan Willis was unimpressive in 2018 when given a bump in playing time. In his rookie season, Willis works well as a rotational player against the run.
Sam Hubbard was a much better player in his rookie season (39 tackles, six sacks, and two defended passes), but he did have some risk vs. the run. Hubbard plays with awareness the line of scrimmage, which helps offset his lack of impact athleticism. He'll hold his own against the run while lacking the speed or power to offer impact value attacking the QB. Sam is more of a steady part to the puzzle on defense who will control his small piece of real estate on the field. His ability to work hard on every plays ups his playable value.
This defense is much better than its 2018 results. With better play on offense, Cinci will be able to attack the QB with enough talent to slow down the run game. They have one weakness in coverage with some interesting young players to fill the expected gaps in 2019. Viable second Fantasy defense than my surprise at times this season. The first goal this year if fixing the weakness vs. the run.