2017 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Better health from A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert could help Bengals offense explode
Injuries to A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert derailed the Bengals last season, and they hope the two of them can return to lead one of the NFL's more impressive skill-set groups.
Cincinnati missed the playoffs for the first time in five years despite holding opposing offenses to 19.7 points per game. While the defense was fine, the offense was rarely at full strength because of injuries. Their season ended with three wins over nine games.
What better way to fix an offense than to add speed to it? That's what the Bengals did in April's draft, taking Washington speed receiver John Ross and Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon with their first two picks. Immediately adding a much-needed speed element to their offense, Ross will force defenses to play deep and Mixon will force those same opponents to respect the run game. These additions should immediately help an offense that mustered up a mere 20.3 points per game.
A.J. Green is the most popular Bengal in terms of Fantasy production. Last season he was among the most consistent point-scorers among wide receivers and was on pace for career-highs in catches and yards before a hamstring tear cost him his last six matchups. He remains a safe, spectacular No. 1 Fantasy receiver, even with the addition of Ross. If anything, Ross will help draw coverage away from Green, a thought that will keep defensive coordinators up at night.
One huge key for Cincinnati will be its pass protection after the O-line lost its two best blockers in free agency. If Andy Dalton doesn't have time to throw, what good will his improved receiving corps do?
Sleeper: Andy Dalton
O-line issue aside, Dalton has a chance to match the 4,200 yards from 2016 and total close to 30 touchdowns. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert are healthy, rookie John Ross should contribute on a pretty regular basis and the Bengals run game is still an enigma. It all adds up to Dalton having a chance at huge numbers with the most stacked receiving corps he's ever had. Dalton's also ran for at least three scores in each of his last three seasons and typically has followed up lousy years with big seasons. A lot of Fantasy owners have forgotten about Dalton -- don't be one of them. He's worth a late-round pick in all leagues, even if you spend an earlier choice on a different passer.
Bounce-Back Candidate: Tyler Eifert
If you hate drafting injury-prone players, don't take Eifert. If you don't like carrying two tight ends, don't take Eifert. But if you enjoy the fruits of football players who score on a frequent basis, then taking Eifert is highly recommended. Andy Dalton's red-zone BFF has scored 18 times over the 21 games he's played the last two seasons. He's also averaged 48 yards per game in that span, effectively averaging 10 Fantasy points per start. But he's also missed a lot of time -- eight games last year, three the year before and 15 games in 2014. He's also coming off of back surgery, though he's being counted on for training camp. Eifert, when healthy, is among the best tight ends in Fantasy not named Gronkowski. Unfortunately, he's not always healthy. If you're going to take him, you'll need roster space for a second tight end to carry as insurance. That second guy can be found in the late rounds, or even on waivers in smaller leagues. As for Eifert, he'll cost a sixth-round pick in any format, which isn't too steep a price given his potential for big games. Either you're the risk-taking type who will go for him then, or you're not.
It's simply a matter of time until both of these guys are stuck in limited roles behind rookie Joe Mixon. Fantasy owners don't really want to draft Hill because of his touchdown potential. He's scored at least nine times in each of three NFL seasons. But touchdowns are pretty much all he has -- in 2015 and 2016 he topped 70 rush yards eight times and 100 rush yards twice. Bernard, on the other hand, doesn't really do much of anything. His touches and production have slid over the past two seasons, leaving him with just eight instances of 10-plus Fantasy points in that span. Gio didn't even get more touches when Hill struggled last year, and now he's coming back from a torn ACL. Hill isn't worth a Top 100 pick and Bernard is barely worth a pick at all. Mixon, on the other hand, will get taken before 55th overall in every single league.
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