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On a weekend when three prominent Fantasy options were lost for the season due to knee injuries in Julian Edelman, Spencer Ware and Cameron Meredith, the last thing we needed was more bad news. Enter the Bengals.
Jeremy Hill left the third preseason game at Washington with an ankle injury, and Tyler Eifert was held out due to tendinitis in his knee. Reports indicate that neither injury is serious, but both could have an impact on upcoming Fantasy drafts.
Start with Hill, who we know is competing for playing time with promising rookie Joe Mixon, as well as Giovani Bernard. Hill rolled his left ankle in the first quarter Sunday, and he was ruled out immediately. He finished the game with five carries for 15 yards and a touchdown.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Hill said after the game he would be fine, but it's an injury to monitor, especially with the season opener quickly approaching Sept. 10 at Baltimore. If Hill is out, Mixon can kick open the door for the starting job -- and hopefully run away with it.
Hill started every preseason game, and he didn't do enough to run away with the starting job or embarrass himself. He was just, well, mediocre, which has been typical for Hill over the past two years.
His preseason stats are 18 carries for 69 yards (3.8 yards per carry) and one touchdown, and he had no catches. Over the past two seasons, Hill rushed for an average of 222 carries for 817 yards (3.6 yards per carry), along with 42 total catches, but he scored 21 total touchdowns over that span, which helped him finish as a top-20 Fantasy running back in standard leagues in each season.
The hope this year was Mixon would replace Hill after he was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft out of Oklahoma. Mixon looks the part of an elite talent, but he might not have done enough in the preseason to unseat Hill if healthy.
Mixon had eight carries for 31 yards and one catch for 6 yards against Washington, and his preseason stats are 20 carries for 78 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and three catches for 32 yards. But if you watch him play, you can see the upside, and he was a dominant running back for the Sooners with 187 carries for 1,274 yards (6.8 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns along with 37 catches for 538 yards and five touchdowns in 2016.
Now, if Hill is out to start the season, Mixon could get the opportunity Fantasy owners are hoping for, even though it should only be a matter of time before he's the starter anyway. His Average Draft Position is No. 46 overall as the No. 18 running back. He's worth drafting in that spot based on his potential, and it will be more than justified if he starts in Week 1.
For comparison, I have Mixon currently as the No. 5 rookie running back in my rankings behind Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt, Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey. Should we find out that Hill will miss several weeks with this ankle injury, I will vault Mixon ahead of Cook.
Bernard would also get a boost if Hill is out, but he looks locked into being a third-down back after last year's torn ACL. He made his preseason debut against Washington and had four carries for 25 yards.
We would only draft Bernard with a late-round pick in most leagues, with his value slightly higher in PPR. But things could change depending on Hill.
As for Eifert, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said the tight end was rested against Washington because of "a little tendinitis in his knee." The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Eifert went through warm ups prior to Sunday's game, but that he was rested to "eliminate all risk" of an injury prior to Week 1. The report states Eifert will "be ready for the opener" against Baltimore.
The problem with Eifert is any injury concern should be concerning for Fantasy owners. He's missed 26 games over the past three years, and he's coming off back surgery this offseason.
But when he's on his game he's a potential top-five Fantasy tight end, mostly due to his touchdown production, and he has 18 touchdowns in his past 21 games. It's why Fantasy owners are drafting him as the No. 8 tight end at No. 83 overall.
I have Eifert ranked as the No. 6 tight end, but I might drop him to No. 8 due to this injury concern. He's in the third tier of tight ends behind Rob Gronkowski (tier 1) and the second-tier guys in Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed, Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen.
Zach Ertz and Kyle Rudolph should be considered safer options, and you can drop Eifert behind those guys if you're worried. That might be the smart move to make given Eifert's track record, although we hope the injury is minor as reported.