Over the course of the summer, the Fantasy Six Pack staff are going to be taking a fantasy look at the offenses of all 32 NFL teams. Examining the QB, RB, WR, and TE positions for each team.
The next team for us to look at are the Cincinnati Bengals. Once again, the Bengals had a disappointing season in 2017, finishing 7-9. The Bengals last made the playoffs in 2015, and the 2018 outlook does not look very promising.
The Bengals may have been the worst offense in the league last season. Ranking dead last in total yards, 26th in points, 27th in passing yards, and 31st in rushing yards. This unit has been an utter disappointment.
They are bringing back Bill Lazor as offensive coordinator for the 2018 season. Lazor took over for former Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese after Week 2.
Inexplicably, the Bengals signed coach Marvin Lewis to a two-year contract extension. Lewis has a 0-7 postseason record as Bengals head coach. Additionally, Marvin Lewis' overall primetime record is a dismal 8-31. Marvin Lewis is always among the favorites to be the first coach fired in 2018, according to website SportsBettingDime.com. His ability to lead a team has always come under question and for good reason, especially in the second-half of games.
— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonATH) January 3, 2018
2018 Fantasy Football Cincinnati Bengals Preview
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The first five years of quarterback Andy Dalton‘s career saw the Cincinnati Bengals go to the playoffs all five years. Unfortunately, Dalton has regressed in each of the past two seasons; committing 27 turnovers since 2016 after just nine in 2015. His completion percentage is down in each of the past two seasons, with last year statistically his worst at 58.9%. The Bengals have gone 13-18-1 during that span.
This regression has led Dalton to be ranked among the worst NFL quarterbacks. NFL.com rankings in March of the top 32 quarterbacks (regardless of team) had Dalton at No. 21.
Dalton at No. 26 was even ranked lower than second-year signal callers, the Chicago Bears' Mitchell Trubisky and the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes in SportingNews.com's ranking of all 32 starting signal callers.
Furthermore, Dalton's performance in the limelight is alarming. Dalton has a 5-19 record in games played during prime time. In his combined four playoff appearances Dalton has thrown for 873 yards, one touchdown, and six interceptions with a 55.7 completion percentage. He has yet to lead the Bengals to a playoff victory in his career.
To help Andy Dalton improve this season, the Bengals hired Frank Pollack, who was a successful offensive line coach from the Dallas Cowboys. The Bengals made a trade for left tackle Cordy Glenn, who is one of the best offensive tackles in the game when healthy. They also added Billy Price, a center from Ohio State in the first round of the draft this year.
This is a make-or-break season for Andy Dalton. The organization believes they have all the pieces surrounding Dalton to perform at the level he once did. If not, we will no longer see Dalton in a Bengals uniform. Unless you are in a 2-QB league, you shouldn't own Andy Dalton.
Matt Barkley will handle the backup duties after A.J. McCarron left to the Buffalo Bills via free agency. Barkley has a horrible 63.7 passer rating in five seasons spent mostly in a reserve capacity. He last played in a game for the Chicago Bears in 2016, Bengals fans hope to keep it that way.
Cincinnati ranked 29th in the league for rushing attempts in 2017, and most of that was due to a weak offensive line production. Mixon and Bernard should see a bigger load of carries in 2018 behind an improved offensive line.
The Bengals want to turn Joe Mixon into an all-around running back instead of fixed roles. With Jeremy Hill now gone, we should see more chances for Mixon in goal-line situations.
Mixon had 178 carries and 30 receptions last year as a part of the Bengals three running back system. The carries should increase while the catches remain constant. He rushed for 626 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Mixon match or even slightly eclipse the 238 touches Hill had in 2015. That increase should make Joe Mixon a promising breakout candidate in 2018.
Even if Mixon does see a bump in workload, that doesn’t mean he should usurp Bernard’s role at all. Bernard played well for the Bengals offense last season in his return from an ACL tear the season before. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry and was active in the passing game with 43 catches for 389 yards and two touchdowns.
Bernard, entering his sixth year with the Bengals, saw the most snaps with the offense. It looks like Mixon will take that role this season while Bernard will likely get the 40 percent like what Mixon had last season.
Mark Walton was a fourth-round pick from Miami, who will serve as the backup to both backs and will contribute on special teams. Unless both backs get hurt, Walton will probably have no fantasy significance this season.
Andy Dalton finally took some shine off of A.J. Green last year. He posted career lows in yards per game (67.4) and his lowest mark in catches per game (4.7) since his rookie season while seeing the lowest rate of catchable targets for his career per @PFF ... pic.twitter.com/OHgsOXa8XL
— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) May 14, 2018
Even in his statistically worst year, last year, Green still put up a 75/1,078/8 stat line. He was PFF’s 12th ranked wide receiver for the season. A.J. Green also finished as a WR1 in all fantasy football formats. For most wide receivers, this would be an excellent season. For A.J. Green, it’s a disappointment.
According to Pro Football Focus, Green posted career lows in yards per route run (2.1), catch rate (56.0), and yards per game (67.4) last season.
Green still ranked second in target shares among all NFL receivers last season according to Rich Hribar of Rotoworld.
Expect Green's numbers to increase due to the Bengals having one of the easiest schedules in 2018, according to CBS Sports.
Hard to be wrong when selecting A.J. Green as your WR1 and someone you will need to draft in the second round, but worth the investment.
Looking For a Number Two
One of the biggest needs on the Bengals offense is another solid option to team with A.J. Green. Brandon LaFell led the Bengals' receivers in offensive snaps with 863. He is a serviceable veteran but an average receiver who is not the answer as a number two WR.
Tyler Boyd was not given much of an opportunity to play a role in the offense. We have yet to see his full potential, but he has shown flashes. Look for Boyd to take more snaps away from LaFell. The Bengals need to see what they have in their 2016 second-round pick.
A wild card in the Bengals offense is 2017 first-round pick, John Ross. The burner broke Chris Johnson's combine record in the 40-yard dash and is coming back from an injury-riddled rookie season. Ross is returning with something to prove and should be utilized on short-to-intermediate passes in the open field to maximize his speed. Hopefully, he can provide enough of an impact so that Green will avoid being double and triple teamed on each play.
In five years with the Bengals, Tyler Eifert has played in only 39 games due to multiple injuries, including at least one injury in every year of his career. In that time, Eifert still has amassed a stunning stat line of 127 catches, 1,537 yards, and 20 touchdowns. Eifert never managed to play a 16-game season in five years.
The Bengals’ offense is significantly different when Eifert is on the field, and his inability to stay on the field the last two seasons is one of the huge reasons why the Bengals endured back-to-back losing seasons.
Eifert signed a one-year deal this offseason with incentives for playing time and production. Unfortunately, his medical issues have already begun. He underwent multiple surgeries on his knee and back, and it's hard not to be pessimistic about Eifert making it a full season in 2018.
On the first day of mandatory minicamp, Eifert was unable to practice due to a medical issue.
Third-year tight end Tyler Kroft stepped up in Eifert's absence, accounting for 42 receptions, 404 yards, and seven touchdowns. He became a safety valve for Andy Dalton and a reliable red zone target. However, Kroft struggled between the twenties because he cannot really stretch the field. He is a solid tight end and useful in Fantasy as a low-end TE1 in deeper leagues when Eifert is out.
C.J. Uzomah was the clear backup to Kroft in 2017, only receiving 10 catches for 92 yards and 1 TD. Uzomah, even with Eifert injured, was not a fantasy factor in this passing attack.
The Bengals will have a new look on offense with Bill Lazor leading the way for the entire season. Of course, it will come down to the play of Andy Dalton. His resurgence and the emergence of Joe Mixon could give Fantasy owners something to smile about. If Tyler Eifert and John Ross can remain healthy, this offense would be Fantasy gold. That's a lot of ifs, but that is what we get accustomed to when we look at the Bengals. We will see another mediocre season of football in Cincinnati for the 2018 season.
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