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Fantasy Forecast 2014: Bengals Edition

Posted Jul 2, 2014

Bengals.com takes a look at the upcoming season from a fantasy football perspective.

It is no secret that the National Football League is the most popular of the “Big Four” sports entities in the United States of America. With the growing popularity of the NFL, the popularity of fantasy football has exploded along with it. According to research company IBIS World, the fantasy sports services industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States, and it is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 7.6 percent to $1.8 billion over the five years through 2018. Additionally, IBIS World estimated 33.6 million Americans took part in fantasy sports in 2013.

Today we rank the Top 10 from a fantasy perspective at each position heading into the 2014 NFL season. We will also provide a “Bengals Outlook” for each position where we will break down the fantasy value of Bengals players in each position group.
 
(Note: These rankings are for fantasy football only and are not a representation of predictive value for said players for the 2014 season.)

Quarterback

1. Peyton Manning (Denver)
2. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay)
3. Drew Brees (New Orleans)
4. Matthew Stafford (Detroit)
5. Andrew Luck (Indianapolis)
6. Nick Foles (Philadelphia)
7. Matt Ryan (Atlanta)
8. Tom Brady (New England)
9. Cam Newton (Carolina)
10. Robert Griffin III (Washington)

Bengals outlook: Andy Dalton has improved his numbers in each of his first three seasons in the NFL, capped off by franchise records of 4293 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2013. Dalton ranked fifth in QB fantasy points in standard ESPN.com leagues last season, but injuries to Aaron Rodgers, Robert Griffin III, Jay Cutler and the midseason emergence of Nick Foles must be taken to account.

Fantasy owners can be wary of Dalton’s lack of consistency in the past, something of paramount importance in the fantasy world. One negative on Dalton from a fantasy perspective is that his interception total has risen in each of his three seasons from 13 to 16 to 20 last season. New offensive coordinator Hue Jackson plans to run the ball more than his predecessor, so while Dalton’s attempts may be down, it is likely he becomes more consistent in the new system. Dalton should only get better in his fourth season and should be a very solid fantasy performer yet again with a good chance of cracking the Top 10 by season’s end.

Running Back

1. Jamaal Charles (Kansas City)
2. LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia)
3. Adrian Peterson (Minnesota)
4. Matt Forte (Chicago)
5. Eddie Lacy (Green Bay)
6. Marshawn Lynch (Seattle)
7. Arian Foster (Houston)
8. Doug Martin (Tampa Bay)
9. Giovani Bernard (Cincinnati)
10. Montee Ball (Denver)

Bengals outlook: While the Bengals will likely use a stable of running backs under Jackson, expect Giovani Bernard to get the bulk of the touches. Bernard had a fine rookie season, tallying 695 rushing yards, 514 receiving yards and eight total TDs. He showed great promise as a receiver both out of the backfield and lining up in the slot. Expect Bernard to be a key part of the Bengals offense in 2014 as well as a valuable fantasy commodity because of his strong ability as both a runner and a pass catcher.

2014 second-round draft pick Jeremy Hill will come in and expect to contribute as a rookie. Hill, more of a power runner than Bernard, comes to the Bengals after a decorated two-year career at LSU. Hill rushed for 2156 rushing yards with a 6.3 average and 28 TDs in his career. His 6.3 rushing average ranks third in SEC history. It could take a few games to asses Hill’s fantasy value, but he could be important to draft as a handcuff option for those that also select Bernard. Seventh-year pro and third-year Bengal BenJarvus Green-Ellis will also be in the running back rotation for the Bengals. Green-Ellis started all 16 games last season, rushing for 756 yards and seven TDs. He is always intriguing from a fantasy standpoint with his ability in the red zone.

Wide Receiver

1. Calvin Johnson (Detroit)
2. Demaryius Thomas (Denver)
3. A.J. Green (Cincinnati)
4. Dez Bryant (Dallas)
5. Julio Jones (Atlanta)
6. Brandon Marshall (Chicago)
7. Jordy Nelson (Green Bay)
8. Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh)
9. Alshon Jeffrey (Chicago)
10. Randall Cobb (Green Bay)

Bengals outlook: A.J. Green remains one of the NFL’s premier wide receivers headed into his fourth season in the league. Green set career highs with 98 catches and 1426 yards and tied a career high with 11 TDs in 2013. He was the fourth-highest scorer of WRs in standard ESPN.com leagues last year, and with the impending suspension of Cleveland’s Josh Gordon, would be bumped up to No. 3.

The emergence of third-year WR Marvin Jones could continue to take pressure off of Green. Jones was a breakout player for the Bengals in ’13, recording 51 catches for 712 yards and 10 TDs. Jones’ season included a four-touchdown performance on Oct. 27 vs. the New York Jets. Jones proved he could be a force in the red zone last season and will retain strong fantasy value if he can replicate his success in ’14. The Bengals have another third-year WR with some promise in Mohamed Sanu. Sanu came onto the scene as a rookie in ’12 scoring four TDs in nine games. He played a full-season in ’13 and recorded 455 yards and two TDs and should continue to progress in his third NFL campaign.

Tight End

1.Jimmy Graham (New Orleans)
2. Julius Thomas (Denver)
3. Rob Gronkowski (New England)
4. Vernon Davis (San Francisco)
5. Jordan Cameron (Cleveland)
6. Jason Witten (Dallas)
7. Greg Olsen (Carolina)
8. Dennis Pitta (Baltimore)
9. Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota)
10. Jordan Reed (Washington)

Bengals outlook: In 2013 the Bengals base offense featured two tight ends with the addition of ’13 first-round draft pick Tyler Eifert to pair alongside ’10 first-round pick and two-time Pro Bowler Jermaine Gresham. The duo piled up a total of 85 catches for 903 yards and six touchdowns a season ago, with both each missing one regular season game. This is a prime example of how fantasy value does not always equate to real value on the football field. While both Gresham and Eifert are very good players, their fantasy value takes a slight hit due to playing in a two-TE set, as opposed to other TEs who do not have to play alongside another TE as part of their base offense. However, Eifert should only get better in his second season, and Gresham has two Pro Bowls under his belt, so both certainly have the potential to have good seasons from a fantasy perspective.

Kicker

1. Stephen Gostkowski (New England)
2. Matt Prater (Denver)
3. Justin Tucker (Baltimore)
4. Phil Dawson (San Francisco)
5. Steven Hauschka (Seattle)
6. Mason Crosby (Green Bay)
7. Nick Novak (San Diego)
8. Adam Vinatieri (Indianapolis)
9. Dan Bailey (Dallas)
10. Robbie Gould (Chicago)

Bengals outlook: It is generally difficult to forecast fantasy success for kickers, because so much is dependent on how many field goal opportunities a kicker will receive. Mike Nugent has been a very solid performer as the Bengals kicker over the last four seasons. In 2011 Nugent set single season Bengals records for points scored (132) and FGs made (33), and he shares the team mark for longest FG (55 yards). Last season, Nugent converted 18 of his 22 attempts, including three-of-four from 50 yards.

Defense/Special Teams

1. Seattle Seahawks
2. San Francsico 49ers
3. Carolina Panthers
4. Cincinnati Bengals
5. Arizona Cardinals
6. St. Louis Rams
7. Denver Broncos
8. New England Patriots
9. Kansas City Chiefs
10. Houston Texans

Bengals outlook: The Bengals return nine starters from a defensive unit that ranked third in the NFL in total defense in 2013. DT Geno Atkins and CB Leon Hall are expected to make full recoveries after season-ending injuries a season ago. LB Vontaze Burfict emerged following a solid rookie year in ’12 to lead the NFL and tackles and make the Pro Bowl in ’13. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is gone, but the defense should not miss a beat under his understudy and new defensive coordinator, Paul Guenther. Playmaking DEs Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry are back after sharing the team lead for sacks last year (7.5). On the special teams side, the Bengals employ two solid kick/punt returners in Adam Jones and Brandon Tate, who have a combined eight career return touchdowns between the two of them. Also, the Bengals blocked three kicks last season with Dunlap having two of them.

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