QB Andy Dalton – Over his seven seasons in the NFL, Dalton has a 63-44-2 record leading to the Bengals making the playoffs five times. His best years in passing TDs came in 2012 (27) and 2013 (33) while being a much better QB as far as Ints allowed over the last three years (7, 8, and 12). Andy had his second season with over 4,000 passing yards in 2016 (4,206), but he finished with fewer than 3,400 passing yards in three of his last four seasons (2015 due to an injury). His offensive line allowed 81 combined sacks over the last two year (40 and 41). He’s never attempted over 600 passes in a season because of Cinci having success running the ball well in close. His completion rate (59.4) had a huge step back in 2017 with one game with over 300 yards passing. Andy had two games with three TDs or more. This season his WR core need to make a step forward behind A.J. Green. The days of believing in Tyler Eifert at TE are getting shorter. His offensive line is improved, which will help the run game leading to more open field in the passing game. Dalton should make a push back toward 4,000 yards passing with a chance at reach 30 combined TDs if he regains his value in rushing TDs (11 combined rushing TDs from 2014 to 2016). Andy is a viable backup Fantasy QB with matchup value if John Ross develops into the player Cinci hoped he would be after drafting him in the first round in 2017. Mixon did miss two games in 2017 due to a concussion.
RB Joe Mixon – In his first season in the NFL at age 20, Mixon gained 913 combined yards with four TDs and 30 catches while receiving 218 touches. He only had one game with more than 15 Fantasy points in a PPR league (Week 12 vs. CLE – 165 combined yards with one TD and three catches). The Bengals gave him staring carries in Week 11 (20), Week 12 (23), and Week 17 (18). Over his last five games played, Joe gained 385 combined yards with a TD and nine catches. In 2017, Cinci’s RB rushed the ball 339 times for 1,267 yards and six TDs while receiving 79 catches for 728 yards and two more TDs on 100 targets. Mixon has three-down ability, but he did struggle in his assignments in pass protection in his rookie season. Cinci should give him about 275 touches in 2018 leading to about 1,300 combined yards with eight to ten TDs and 30+ catches with much more upside if given a higher share of the offense.
Dr. Roto’s Take:
As I comb through my Twitter feed (@DrRoto), I have seen a lot of social media hate for Bengals RB Joe Mixon as a second-round Fantasy pick this season. But is the hate truly warranted?
There is a lot to like with Mixon. Firstly, he is fast and elusive out of the backfield and has a burst that most other running backs don’t have. If he looked sluggish at times last season, it was probably because he weighed more as a rookie than he did at college. That has been remedied this offseason as he supposedly has lost 13 pounds and will play at 225 lbs this season after working out with a personal trainer.
Many of you will also remember that the Bengals refused to give Mixon the starting job outright last year, instead allowing dumpster fire RB Jeremy Hill to start games until they brought Mixon in at some point in the second quarter. Whoever starts a road race with a used Kia when they have a Porsche on the sidelines? OC Bill Lazor has two main jobs this season: 1) feature Mixon and make the running game a priority, and 2) figure out a way to resurrect QB Andy Dalton from Fantasy mediocrity.
It all begins with an improved offensive line. The Bengals added LT Cordy Glenn in free agency and C Billy Price in the first round of the draft. The Bengals OL will be tougher this year and will open more holes than Mixon saw all last season. If you watch last year’s game film closely, you will see a number of plays where Mixon had long gainers that were brought back due to holding penalties. If even half those penalties turn into real yards, Mixon’s statistics will improve.
Additionally, the emergence of second-year wide receiver John Ross will also help the Bengals running game. Last season the Bengals lacked a deep threat in their passing attack, so opposing defenses were able to sneak up and stay closer to the line of scrimmage. A healthy John Ross (who runs a 4.28) might help provide Mixon a few more open running lanes as well.
How committed are the Bengals to Mixon? Extremely. The Bengals drafted University of Miami RB Mark Walton in the fourth round, but Walton’s 40-yd time is 4.6, and he is not a game breaker in the least. The team likes Gio Bernard as its third down pass catching back, and he is expected to get about 80-100 rushing attempts and 40 receptions out of the backfield. Bernard’s biggest problem is that although he is extremely talented, he is not big enough to withstand the pounding of an RB1 in the NFL.
Some of Mixon’s naysayers worry that he doesn’t take the game seriously and relies more on his talent than work ethic. While this might be true, it is not enough to downgrade him significantly in drafts. One of the easiest ways to see if Mixon is committed is to keep an eye on his playing weight. If he plays at 225 lbs, you know he is serious about playing football. If he hovers around 240 lbs, you know that he is not 100 percent invested.
To all of you Mixon bashers on social media, I implore you to go check out one of his YouTube videos from when he played at Oklahoma. Tell me if you’ve seen a more explosive back with silky hands in a long while. You can’t help but be impressed. We live in a “What have you done for me lately?” society and Mixon did very little last year to impress Fantasy owners. That should change in 2018.
Joe Mixon’s Predicted Stats: 250 carries – 1085 rushing yards – 8 TDs & 35 catches – 412 receiving yards – 4 TDs
RB Giovani Bernard – I have to say Bernard came back quicker than I expected in 2017 hurting the opportunity and evaluation of Joe Mixon. Giovani played all 16 games in 2017 while averaging 9.25 touches per game. He finished with 847 combined yards with four TDs and 43 catches, which was below his opportunity and output over his first three seasons in the NFL (76.4 yards per game with 17 combined TDs and 148 catches over 45 games). When given a starting opportunity in Week 16, Gio delivered 168 combined yards with a TD and seven catches. He has 22 catches over the last four games for 151 yards on 29 targets. With no Jeremy Hill in the mix, Bernard will regain some value in 2018. I’d set his floor at 175 touches for 900+ yards with 40+ catches and a handful of TDs. He’ll see much of his action on third down while offering change of pace ability on early downs.
RB Mark Walton – Over three seasons at Miami of Florida, Walton rushed for 2,006 yards on 395 carries with 26 TDs. He caught 56 passes for 624 yards with a couple of more scores. Walton is insurance for both Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard. An injury in 2017 led to a short season and a much lower draft position. He’ll offer value as a receiver while needing to prove he can handle running between the tackles in the NFL. He runs with some wiggle at the line of scrimmage with the acceleration to challenge a defense at the second level. Walton won’t run with power on the inside with minimal yards after contact vs. defensive lineman.
WR A.J. Green – Based on targets (142), Green had the fifth best WR opportunity in the NFL in 2017. Unfortunately, his catch rate (52.4) was a career low. A.J. has over 1,000 yards receiving in six of his seven years in the NFL with his only failed year coming in 2016 (66/964/4) when he missed six games. In his career, Green averages 5.4 catches for 80.5 yards and 0.56 TDs per game or 16.9 Fantasy points. He’ll start the year at age 30, which suggests his upside days may be behind him. His long resume sets a high floor. The Bengals added some talent on the offensive line, and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor seems committed to becoming more dynamic on offense. I look for a rebound in targets and a return to double-digit TDs in 2018. Green should be a value this draft season. I expect 90+ catches for 1,300+ yards with 10+ TDs, which would beat his last four seasons.
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WR John Ross – Ross missed the entire 2015 season with a torn left ACL, which came after low production in his freshman (16/208/1) and sophomore (17/371/4) seasons while showcasing some value as a runner (12/93/1). In his redshirt junior year, John offered a nice combination of short area production and home run ability. He finished with 81 catches for 1,150 yards and 17 receiving TDs plus eight rushes for 102 yards and a TD. Ross will threaten the defense with each step he takes. John can beat a defender in a blink of an eye. His biggest challenge will be overcoming physical CBs off the line of scrimmage, which will restrict his value in TDs in the red zone, but his skill set will lead to winning fades and slants at the goal line. John is a playmaker after the catch with immediate value in the return game. His next step is becoming a more efficient route runner where he needs to vary his tempo. His acceleration reminds me of Dante Hall with a much better receiving skill set. Ross had surgery to repair a torn labrum after the 2017 NFL Combine where he ran 4.22 seconds in the 40-yard dash. John is an exciting player with plenty of injuries in his career. His presence will draw the safety away from A.J. Green on many plays. After missing almost all of the 2017 season with various injuries, Ross looks ready to roll in 2018. More of flash WR with big play ability. Let’s lower his bar/opportunity to 50 catches for 750 yards with a handful of scores.
WR Tyler Boyd – Over three seasons at Pittsburgh, Boyd caught 254 passes for 3361 yards and 21 TDs. His best success came in his sophomore year (78/1261/8). His hands are his drawing card with strength in his route running. In a way, his game fits the style of a big WR who can win many jump balls. Tyler projects to be a possession receiver. He lacks deep speed, and his quickness is a step below the best WRs in the NFL. Boyd may struggle against press coverage in the NFL until he adds more upper body strength and improves his release. His overall game has much higher ceiling than LaFell. His rookie season stats (54/603/1 on 81 targets) suggested upside, but a knee injury and an issue off the field that led to a weaker role in 2017 (22/225/2 on 32 targets). Boyd should become the WR that sees the short area targets in 2018 with Brandon LaFell being phased out and Tyler Eifert continues to battle health issues. Possible 50+ catches for 600+ yards with some value in TDs.
Update: 8/11/18 > With Brandon LaFell out the picture and John Ross not moving as quickly in the right direction, Boyd may be the WR2 in the Bengals’ offense that offers the most upside. At the very least, he gains more targets since the early outlooks were done in mid-May.
WR Brandon LaFell – In his second season with the Bengals, LaFell caught 52 of 89 targets for 548 yards and three TDs while gaining only 10.5 yards per catch. Brandon had fewer than 60 yards receiving in 15 of his 16 games with his only playable game coming in Week 10 (6/95/1). His best two seasons came in 2014 (74/953/7) and 2016 (64/862/6). At age 31, his days of being a viable Fantasy option appear to be over. A healthy season by John Ross will push LaFell to 40 catches or fewer with empty Fantasy value.
Update: 8/11/2018 > The Bengals moved on from LaFell in early August. He’ll try to find a new home over the next couple of weeks.
TE Tyler Eifert – Over the last four seasons in the NFL, Tyler missed 40 games. His 2016 season started with him on the shelf an ankle injury that occurred in late May. His slow recovery from surgery led to him missing the first six games of the season. After short snaps in Week 7 (one catch for nine yards on two targets), Eifert showed dominating upside the next week vs. the Redskins (9/102/1 on 12 targets). He scored four TDs over his next six games with only 19 catches for 283 yards on 33 targets. A back injury cost him the last two games of 2016. He had surgery twice over the last year to correct his back issue. In 2017, Eifert was only on the field for two games (1/4 and 3/42). The Bengals respected his talent enough to sign him to a $5.5 million contract in March, so they believe he’ll offer something this season. Tough call here. I get the talent, which he showcased in 2015 (52/615/13), but he comes with injury risk. As long as his price point is free (after round 12), there is no real downside in taking him as your TE2. For now, Fantasy owners need a lot of more info before making a fair judgment on his value in 2018. I’ll avoid in the early draft season until I see him on the field.
Update: 7/27/18 > Cinci placed Eifert on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) at the end of the July with a slow recovery from his back issue. The move could be cosmetic in an effort to get him ready for the start of the 2018 season. Talented player, but I would not pay full price for his injury risk in Fantasy drafts.
TE Tyler Kroft – In his first season with starting snaps, Kroft caught 42 of his 62 targets for 404 yards and seven TDs. He made Fantasy owners extremely happy in the daily games in Week 4 (6/68/2) and Week 17 (6/53/2). Kroft had seven games with two catches or fewer in his 14 starts while failing to gain over 30 yards in nine games, which includes seven straight over the second half of the year. More of a bye week or short-term injury cover if given an opportunity to start. Tyler can score, and Dalton will look for the TE at the goal line.
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