Cincinnati Bengals 2011 Fantasy Football Outlook: Not Good.
By Editorial Staff
As the football season draws closer, and a CBA agreement seems on the verge of being signed, NFL.com, Yahoo, ESPN and others are announcing that it’s time for Fantasy Football. Articles on drafting strategies, banners, and background ads are all making the desperate plea for readers to “Join a League Today!”
Every major site has already released its overall rankings for every player in the league. The Bengals players, unfortunately, aren’t projected so highly. Being the intense Bengals and fantasy football fan that I am, I studied all the available rankings/projections/mock drafts for Bengals players. My goal: determine which Bengals players are overrated and underrated.
I looked at results from overall rankings, expert mock drafts, and Average Draft Positions (the average pick that a player was drafted on a particular site) from these sources: ESPN.com, NFL.com, Yahoo!, Pro Football Focus, CBS Sports, and Fox Sports. Unfortunately, the jerks at Rotoworld and SportingNews all charge a lot of cash for their fantasy rankings. Anyway, since there’s so much variation among different experts, I averaged their rankings together to get the best picture of the Bengals prospects.
The players most drafted were Cedric Benson [all rankings aren’t updated daily or even weekly, so these rankings don’t reflect his most recent arrest, but it’s safe to assume he will be a picked a lot lower], AJ Green, Jerome Simpson, Chad Ochocinco, Jermaine Gresham, and Jordan Shipley. The other guys: Bernard Scott [probably shoots up several rounds due to Benson’s arrest], Andre Caldwell, and the Bengals Defense are either very deep or not listed in most rankings. Andy Dalton was not listed at all. I excluded Terrell Owens because he won’t be back on the Bengals (and won’t be back on any team until November), and Carson Palmer because almost everybody thinks he won’t be playing this season.
Here’s the final spreadsheet that I put together:
Initial Reaction: Cedric Benson is the consensus first Bengal off the boards, but he’s averaging as late as the 23rd Runningback taken. [Now, with Ced’s return full of even more question marks, Ced drops further. I’ll have to do another study on the average rankings later]. Beforehand, I was pretty unsure where AJ Green, Jerome Simpson, and Chad Ochocinco would end up. There’s so many question marks with all three of them, but AJ Green ended up being the first to be picked of the three of them. Jerome Simpson averaged just in front of Ochocinco, which bothers me because I think Ochocinco still has a lot left in the tank. Jermaine Gresham has a few fans and experts who take him earlier, but others forget about him. Jordan Shipley was a pretty constant very-late-round pickup. Bernard Scott was heavily undervalued, and only appeared in a few rankings [that should change soon]. Andre Caldwell was drafted miles behind his 2008 draft counterpart, Jerome Simpson, leaving clear evidence of who the public expects to win the position battle between the two of them. The Bengals Defense/Special Teams and Andy Dalton were taken very very low, and I ignored Carson Palmer and Terrell Owens, as I mentioned above. Only six players were on enough rankings to study, so here’s my analysis of the first three.
Cedric Benson: originally underrated, now in flux…
Whats’s Happening: Pre-Arrest: Experts and fans are struggling to see Benson as a starter in standard 10-team leagues (getting drafted as the 23rd runningback). They cite Benson’s average yards-per-carry (a dismal 3.5 yds/carry) and his fumbles (7 of his 14 career fumbles came last year), and they think that Benson is running out of steam. Also, they fear Bernard Scott, Leonard, Finley may steal carries. Post-Arrest: Now, Benson should slide down considerably. Rankings and projections haven’t been updated though, so we don’t have any exact numbers on how far he will slide.
My Take: Pre-Arrest: While I am greatly annoyed at how often Benson was stuffed for 0 yards last season, I think the inconsistent run-blocking and total lack of a fullback for almost the whole season hurt Benson’s running more than people realize. That being said, we don’t quite know how new Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden will use Benson in 2011, but we do know that the quarterback position is unresolved and we will need to rely on the running game often. Benson is built to be the workhorse that the team needs. There is Bernard Scott sitting behind him, so there is a bit of risk with Benson losing touches to Scott. People see this risk and are taking him rather late. I do, in fact, agree that he should be drafted as your 3rd runningback, but Benson is a high-risk/high-reward guy who may end up starting as your second runningback by the end of the season. Post-Arrest: Cedric may be suspended, he may be resigned by the Bengals, he may be signed by another team. Who knows. At this point all you can do is wait for Commish Roger Goodell to decide how to handle Benson, and wait to see which team takes him.
1. Sporting News’ Bill Bender examines Benson’s changing fantasy stock
2. ESPN’s James Walker thinks his arrest couldn’t have happened at a worse time
3. ESPN’s Clayton thinks Benson is one of the most important FAs to resign in the league (pre-arrest)
4. ESPN’s James Walker considers alternative runningbacks for the Bengals’
AJ Green: drafted where he should be
What’s Happening: AJ Green is being taken very consistently around the 80th to 120th pick. He is getting drafted as a third or fourth receiver for teams in standard ten-team formats, which means he’s either your first backup receiver or third starter. Fans like him a bit more than experts do (experts generally don’t trust rookies to be consistent producers).
My take: AJ Green is a rare talent, a hardworker, and a class act. [The “Everything to Prove” series on NFL.com is a real treat, if you haven’t gotten a chance to watch it yet]. But, I wouldn’t want AJ Green starting on my team this year. Similar to Benson (and Jerome Simpson for that matter), he is very high-risk/high-reward. I think he’s a great addition to the Bengals, and possibly a future Pro-Bowler. But, I don’t think he is going to produce very well in the first few weeks, simply because he is a rookie in a locked out offeason. If I don’t draft him, I will probably try to trade for him about one-third, or halfway through the season. In this lockout, I don’t expect rookies to grasp their respective offenses right away, even one with as much potential as AJ Green.
1. Pro Football Focus – Rookie Receiver Production Analysis
2. ESPN Fantasy- Don’t Draft Rookies
3. Pro Football Weekly – AJ Green is the Number One Rookie Who Can Make An Instant Fantasy Splash
Jerome Simpson: Overrated
What’s Happening: Jerome is being drafted as a third or fourth wide-receiver in standard 10-team formats. Experts and informed fans know his name because of the last two games of 2010 (247 yds, 3 TD). Some experts rank him a lot higher than others.
My Take: I have very mixed feelings about where Jerome is being drafted. He is not going as the late-round-flier I expected him to be. My biggest qualm is that people tend to assume that Jerome Simpson will be starting this year. Some people think he will do better than AJ Green, and almost everybody thinks he will be better than Ochocinco. But, what if the Bengals choose to bring Ochocinco back? What if Andre Caldwell and AJ Green outperform Simpson in training camp? What if the Bengals sign a veteran wide receiver (not likely, but still possible)? What if Jerome can’t grasp the new offense and the others can? I simply can’t say that Jerome Simpson is a lock to start in 2011. He certainly showed his playmaking ability in Week 16 & 17 of last season, but also showed inexperience when he fumbled and wasn’t always in the right place at the right time. This guy was widely regarded as a bust in early December. Do two games totally change that? I have a hard time trusting Jerome Simpson to put points on the board regularly. I’m very hopeful for what he will be able to do this year as a Bengals player. But, as a fantasy player, I can’t trust him. He’s being drafted as a guy on the verge of starting on 3 WR leagues. I’ll take him with my late-round-flier, if he’s still on the boards. But, he probably won’t be.
3. NFL.com – Watch the position battles in Cincinnati at WR and QB
4. Fox Sports – WR Ranking Preview
Next time, I’ll take a look at Chad Ochocinco, Jordan Shipley, and Jermaine Gresham. And, then everybody else in a later installment.