Bengals Fantasy Forecast

One of the hidden dangers of the NFL lockout was that it threatened to deprive us not only of real-life football, but also of the dorkier-but-no-less-addicting fantasy version of the game. With no fantasy football, people would have been forced to spend their afternoons at work actually working, their evenings playing board games or watching movies with their families, their Sundays mowing the lawn or cleaning the bathroom—oh the horror.

Luckily, that unimaginable catastrophe was avoided when the owners and players came to terms. Still, the shortened preseason meant fantasy league commissioners and owners had much less time than usual to sign up for leagues, study expert projections, stockpile draft magazines, create a draft cheat sheet, and talk smack at the water cooler.

 So in an effort to make your fantasy football preparations a little easier, here is the official Cincinnati Magazine (read: unofficial William Powell) guide to drafting Bengals for your imaginary team. Because we like to think of ourselves as being too cool for such geekery, you probably won’t find much fantasy football content on this blog (seriously, this could be the only time we ever write about it). Take advantage of this wisdom while it’s available.

 Before I get into individual players, let’s talk overall strategy. Fantasy is more fun when you own a player or two from your favorite real-life team. But if you start the season with a Bengal at every position, you will never win. The key is striking a balance. If you’re choosing between two comparable players, say Cedric Benson and Marshawn Lynch, go with the Bengal. But don’t pick A.J. Green in the second round instead of Larry Fitzgerald. That’s just silly.

 Now that we’re all on the same page, here are my fantasy forecasts for the relevant Bengals:

 Andy Dalton. Opinions differ drastically regarding how good an NFL quarterback Andy Dalton might be in a few years. But for his rookie season, there seems to be a consensus. The kid is going to struggle. Don’t draft him.

 Cedric Benson. Over the past two seasons with the Bengals, Benson has shown that he can be a workhorse in the backfield, carrying the ball more than 300 times each year and rushing for 1,251 yards in 2009 and 1,111 yards last season. On the other hand, Benson’s yards per carry fell from 4.2 to 3.5 last year, and opposing defenses are likely to gang up on the run this year to force Dalton to beat them with his arm. Still, because Benson will pile up plenty of carries, I expect him to rush for around 1,000 yards and score in the range of 6 to 10 touchdowns. I’d be happy with Benson as my third running back, but a lot more nervous if he were my second rushing option.

 Jerome Simpson, A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham. There was a lot of talk this off-season about the departures of Ochocinco and T.O., but the Bengals still have a few solid pass-catching options. When given a chance to play in the final two games last season, Simpson had 247 yards receiving and scored three touchdowns. Green was the fourth pick in this year’s draft and has all the physical tools to be a Pro Bowl receiver in a couple of years. And Gresham was fourth on the team in receiving last year as a rookie tight end. The problem is that these guys are going to be reliant on Dalton to get them the ball and chances are he won’t be particularly effective at doing so. Simpson and Green could be solid sleeper picks in the later rounds of your draft, but don’t overpay for them. I’d avoid Gresham, but possibly consider him as a bye week replacement later in the season.

 So yeah, none of those are terrific options. Sadly, if the Bengals stink in real life, they won’t do your fantasy team much good, either.

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