2014 Team Outlook: Cincinnati Bengals
QB Andy Dalton, CIN - Quality Backup
Dalton faces plenty of scrutiny and criticism in Cincinnati. Even after a stellar 2013 season statistically, he isn't thought of as an excellent QB. He did struggle in big moments (especially against the pass rush); however, if you look deeper at the numbers, the fantasy production is there. Dalton threw for 4,296 yards last season and accounted for 35 TDs. His interceptions are high, but if he can get them under control, he can better establish himself as a big-time fantasy QB. He has the talent around him with tremendous young weapons like A.J Green, Marvin Jones and Giovani Bernard. It remains to be seen whether or not new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will revert to a more run-focused attack as he is known for. Fewer attempts doesn't necessarily equate to a major decrease in passing numbers and it could actually create less turnovers. A more effective ground game would also give Dalton more time in the pocket and improve the efficiency of play-action. With his rookie contract on the verge of expiring, all eyes will be on Dalton. It's time for the former TCU QB to take that next step, much like Eli Manning and Joe Flacco did when they were questioned whether they could lead a team to a championship. All questions aside, Dalton should be drafted in all formats at least as a backup who can occasionally post QB1 totals when the matchup is favorable.
QB Jason Campbell, CIN - Not Draft Worthy
Campbell has floated around the NFL since leaving the Redskins some years ago. He is now on his fourth team in as many years coming to the Bengals from Cleveland this offseason. If Campbell does get an opportunity to start on the off-chance Dalton is injured, the former Auburn QB has some limited value as a bye week fill-in. Until that moment though, he has no fantasy value.
QB A.J. McCarron, CIN - Dynasty Only
McCarron has a championship pedigree. The rookie was drafted in the fifth round out of Alabama. His draft stock dropped, in part due to his arrogant persona (he reportedly rubbed a lot of teams the wrong way in pre-draft interviews). He is not NFL ready just yet and likely will not see any playing time in the immediate future. Even if Dalton goes down, Campbell will most likely be next in line to start. It doesn't help that McCarron has dealt with "arm soreness" during mandatory minicamp. Expect nothing out of McCarron this season. Dalton would have to really falter over the next season or two to give McCarron much dynasty appeal.
RB Giovani Bernard, CIN - Stud (low risk)
Giovani Bernard was the first running back drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft for good reason. He has all the tools teams want and need out of a running back. Still, he's in a somewhat crowded backfield after the Bengals drafted Jeremy Hill out of LSU. Bernard's talent may very well overpower all of that. This guy is quick, explosive, can catch, run, and make plays all over the field. He can make defenders miss and can be a big-play threat every time he touches the ball. The Bengals started Bernard off slow last season, but by the year's end he was clearly their best option. Early reports out of camp are Bernard is the top back and is seeing some split back looks paired with the aforementioned Hill. You can expect a thunder-and-lightning look from the Bengals with Bernard earning the majority of touches. Giovani Bernard is a RB1 in all formats and his youth and pass-catching ability only further raises his value in PPR and dynasty leagues.
Editor's note: One facet regarding Bernard, if I may rain on his parade, is his size. One big hit and Bernard's season could be over. He has some decent girth; however, the second-year back isn't exactly built to handle 20-plus carries week after week. It'll be interesting to see how the Bengals opt to both limit his exposure to injury while also maximizing his talent.
RB Jeremy Hill, CIN - Fantasy Handcuff
LSU rookie Jeremy Hill has all the talent to succeed on-the-field, although off-the-field may be another story. Hill faced assault charges while in college. Cincinnati is also known for taking chances on character-concern players. In two seasons at LSU, Hill amassed over 2,000 yards, 28 touchdowns and averaged 6.2 yards per carry. He is a big powerful back with just enough speed. Early reports out of camp are that Hill has already jumped BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the depth chart and is being used in some split back looks with featured back Giovani Bernard. How many touches Hill will get is yet to be known, yet he is no doubt the leading candidate to be Bernard's handcuff. Jeremy Hill is definitely worth a pick in dynasty leagues. He has less value in PPR leagues. Expect him to be slammed between the tackles and perhaps flirting with flex potential if he earns goal-line and short-yardage opportunities.
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, FA - Low Potential
Green-Ellis is a reliable back, but due to the Bengals drafting rookie running backs in consecutive seasons, his fantasy value has plummeted. Giovani Bernard is the lead back and rookie Jeremy Hill has already jumped Green-Ellis on the depth chart. The only bright side for "The Law Firm" is new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. He likes to run the ball with multiple backs, so if there is an injury, BJGE will be right back in the mix. Until then, he has very little fantasy value and can be skipped over for a runner with more upside.