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Fantasy Football Offensive Evaluation: Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals were one of the worst teams, including of the least efficient offenses, in the league last season. So perhaps losing your starting QB and top two leading wide receivers will actually be a good thing.

It's hard to blame the entire mess on Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco, and Terrell Owens. It's also hard to argue against getting younger and moving on to the next generation. Its the first time since 2000 that the Bengals will go into a season with neither Palmer or 85. They still have a Palmer, but it's not the right one, and unless Carson has a change of heart the Bengals will work with what they've got at QB. Which isn't a lot, and the offense could regress from 22nd in scoring to the bottom of the pack.

Still, you'll see some interesting young names amongst the skill players. Whether they will do anything in 2011 remains to be seen, but at least one new player will find himself almost universally drafted as he tries to replicate the success that Ochocinco had for a decade.

Trying to mold these players into a respectable offense will be new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, brother of Jon. What does Jay bring to the table? I have no idea. His only experience in the NFL was as an assistant to Jon for the Bucs from 2002 to 2008. That offense wasn't exactly a world-beater, so this is where Jay will have to make his mark. Now, trying to figure out how to piece these players together...

I'll give it a shot....


Andy Dalton

I don't think Dalton will be the starter in week one, but did you really want to hear me talk about Bruce Gradkowski? Dalton was the 35th pick in the draft out of TCU where he went 42-3 as a starter. He's an accurate passer, good arm strength, good game manager, good character. His biggest flaws are that he could be a tad taller, he's got an odd release, and he's a ginger demon.

I am guessing that Dalton won't start the season as starter because there's a lot to learn as an NFL QB and Dalton couldn't even begin to learn the offense until a couple weeks ago. Then again, with a new OC, Gradkowski started learning the offense at the same time. If the Bengals believe they have a shot to win more than 6 games in 2011, then I would like to sell them some property. So it stands to reason that they might feel comfortable going with the QB of the future soon out of the gates. Because Dalton seems to be mature, smart, and less of a project as a high-floor game manager, he might do okay in year one. Don't draft him unless you're in some sort of weird league or a deep keeper league. Dalton probably won't be much in fantasy until 2013 at the earliest. He did complete 11 of 15 passes in the first preseason game, but the Bengals offense didn't look to good at all against the Lions.

Bruce Gradkowski

Here's the story. Of Bruce Gradkowski.

Who has played now on three very ugly teams

All of them had QB problems

Like the Raiders

It's not a pretty scene

Here's the story. Of the Bengals.

Their QB never wanted them again

He turned down, a lot of money

I'd say thats a bad trend

Til the one day when the Bengals called Gradkowski

They said "Would you come fill in for us please,

We don't like you, for the future, you'll be replaced week 3."

The Bengy Bunch. The Bengy Bunch. Any schmuck can get reps for the Bengy Bunch.

Career 6-14 record, 53.2% completion, 20 TD, 23 INT, 65.9 rating. Bruce Gradkowski.

Running Back

Cedric Benson

An odd thing happened after the 2005 NFL draft. Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, and Cadillac Williams all went in the top 5. It seemed super stacked at the top with running backs and those 3 were all high on everybodys fantasy radar.

Year one: Cadillac Williams takes the throne as the best of the bunch. He rushes for 434 yards in the first 3 games of the season and finishes with 1,178 on the year. Brown has some big games, finishes with 4.4 YPC and 907 yards, plus 32 catches. Benson, a Chicago Bear at the time, rushed for 272 yards.

So Williams looked like a future star. Brown looked very promising. Benson was a dud.

Year two: Williams goes backwards, rushing for far less yards per carry and yards per game, finishing with 798 yards and 1 touchdown in 14 games. A devastating injury threatens his career. He started 5 games in the next 2 seasons. Brown takes the lead of the 2005 class, rushes for 1,008 yards, and finishes the year very strong. The next year he'd rush for 602 yards in 7 games and 5 yards per carry. Then he suffers a terrible injury. He'd be inconsistent and in a timeshare with Ricky Williams, and didn't top 90 yards in 2010. Meanwhile, Benson didn't start a single game his 2nd season. He rushed for 647 yards. Then 674 yards in his 3rd season. In 2008, he goes to the Bengals. In the 2nd half of the year, he rushes for 610 yards and tops 100 3 times.

The moral of the very long story? I don't know if there is one, other than the obvious: Being an NFL running back is dangerous and you could get hurt at any time. The career of Cadillac Williams is a sad "what if?" 4 years after the draft, Benson was way behind the other 2, but as of now he only has about 100 less yards than Brown for his career and over 1,000 more yards than Cadillac.

The draft was considered top-heavy in running backs, but Frank Gore was drafted in the 3rd round and has 1,600 more yards than any of them. I guess the moral there is "Get your injury out of the way in college"

Under Gruden, Benson is probably a solid RB2 in fantasy. Where else to the Bengals have to go on offense? Defenses might stack the box, but he'll still get a heavy load and could total 1,000 rushing yards and 8-10 TDs.

Bernard Scott

I think Scott is one of the more talented backups in the NFL. He can be really explosive, like fellow Abilene Christian alums Johnny Knox and Edmond Gates, Scott can break it open at any moment. Seriously, what do they know at Abilene Christian that other programs don't? Scott averaged almost 5 yards per carry last season. Anything happens to Benson, I'm checking on him immediately.

Wide Receiver

AJ Green

This is where things are going to get interesting for the Bengals. A few years ago, the Cardinals had no WRs and then all of a sudden they had Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. No more TO, no more Housh, no more Ochocinco so the Bengals will have to rebuild that area of their team. They start that process with Green, who some people described as being a receiving talent as good as Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, or Andre Johnson. That's some pretty high praise.

Green is the main target, but we don't know how good of a passing game the Bengals will have for him though. And he'll draw a lot of attention. However, the same could have been said for the Johnsons. Calvin had 756 yards in his rookie season with Jon Kitna. Andre had 976 yards with David Carr. Fitzgerald had 780 yards with Josh McCown. If Green really has a similar talent level as those guys, 50 catches for 700 yards and a few scores seems reasonable. In keeper leagues, he's solid. In 1-year leagues, he's a WR4.

Jordan Shipley

He had 52 catches for 600 yards as a rookie and had to share the field with the two biggest egos in the game. That's impressive. He could be the go-to target this season with Green drawing attention, and Shipley might be a breakout star of 2011. The issue still comes down to the QB situation, but this could benefit Shipley if he's seen as a "safety valve" in the middle of the field, rather than the deep threat option. I might grab him late in the draft.

Tight End

Jermaine Gresham

He was their 1st round pick in 2010 and managed 52 catches and 471 yards as a rookie. Again, like Shipley, Gresham might benefit from having a young QB. He could be good for about 600 yards and a few scores. He's one to keep an eye on.

Bo Scaife

He's always felt like he was on the fringe of being rosterable in fantasy. Maybe that's because he had a few big games in 2008. Maybe its because I'm crazy. It's definitely the latter.

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