Day 6: Cincinnati Bengals

As we anticipate the start of the 2017 NFL season, the DFF Degenerates Roundtable (@DFF_Degenerates) is tearing down every team in the NFL – #32teams32days. We’re going round-trip to tackle the entire country – AFC East to West, then NFC West to East. We didn’t have to do it, but we did.

Buckle up! It’s going to be a bumpy ride. We’re traveling to another dimension between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge… that’s the signpost up ahead – our next stop – the RED ZONE.

 

 

AFC NORTH

Continuing our series, we visit the

Cincinnati Bengals

There is more than one way to skin a cat. Every time the Bengals make the playoffs, their opponent has perfected at least one way. The Bengals always seem poised to play beyond the regular season, then ultimately lose during the first week of the post-season. It’s like an annual rite of passage for fans. No matter how strong the team or how good the season, Cincinnati whiffs when it matters most. I guess that’s why they call them, “the Bungles.”

Joe Mixon

@DiBar22i: Many had Joe Mixon as the RB1 in this stacked RB class, I was not one of those people. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even have Mixon as the RB1 among Oklahoma RBs in this class. I don’t hate other Bengal running backs and don’t think either of them just hands this job over to Mixon. Mixon is obviously an early pick in dynasty leagues, but I’m not expecting much from him in 2017. I like him long term, but I’m not expecting much as a rookie.

@DFF_Madman: I think Mixon will be a nice third-down back for Cincinnati this season. Going forward I think he can become more of an all-day back, but I’m definitely not as optimistic as many. While he’s punchy, he has to prove he can carry a load like a lead back. He was a big play guy in college, not a 3-down grinder… all his talent notwithstanding. I need him to show me before I buy into anything more than him being an alternate RB, ala Giovani Bernard… sharing carries with Jeremy Hill, wishing we saw more of him than Hill, yet having Hill surpass him in fantasy points. It’s another platoon backfield.

Don’t draft Mixon before Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey. I’ve seen plenty of that, and it’s a bad look. When you pass up guys that have continually proven themselves and have earned every ounce of our praise, to draft a projection, you tell me you’re more of a reckless gambler and less of a tactician. I’m not saying Mixon lacks talent. In fact, I like his skill-set just fine. He’s an exciting and shifty runner who makes guys miss and breaks a lot of tackles. I’m saying you’re not playing smart if you pass up RBs like Cook, McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette to take a chance.

@DFF_JamesH: Unbelievably talented. Wasted playing for Marvin Lewis. It is almost a guarantee that Lewis will give Mixon as much time as Hill and probably Bernard. But realistically, Mixon has much more talent than both and is more than capable of being an every down back. The Bengals would be a better team if they gave up on Dalton and put McCarron in, but that is just my opinion.

@Christipherbean: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Mixon is basically Giovani Bernard with an Air Pump stuck in his side. His comps are all basically receiving RBs. Gio has proven it in the NFL. Mixon couldn’t even push out the competition on his COLLEGE team. Sure, his competition was an NFL RB too, but in the NFL they are ALL NFL RBs. Mixon is not taking snaps from a healthy Gio, and while Hill can be marginalized, I’m not 100% sure Mixon is even a better runner.

@DynoEconomist: Let’s take a look at how Cincy’s running back touches have been divided up the last few years.

 

Year Rush/

Game

Rec/

Game

Touches/

Game

Rush/

Game

Rec/

Game

Touches/

Game

2016 Jeremy Hill 14.8 1.4 16.2 Giovani Bernard 9.1 3.9 13.0
2015 Jeremy Hill 13.9 .9 14.8 Giovani Bernard 9.6 3.1 12.7
2014 Jeremy Hill 13.9 1.7 15.6 Giovani Bernard 12.9 3.3 16.2
2013 Benjarvus Green-Ellis 13.8 .3 14.1 Giovani Bernard 10.6 3.5 14.1

Bernard and the big back of the offense had similar usage splits over the four years of his career. 32-35 touches per RB is a lot, but I see the Bengals relying on the position given the amount of draft capital they have invested in it and the fact that they have two capable receiving backs.

If Bernard is healthy I expect him to maintain a similar role as he has had over the last two years. This would be 12-13 touches between both the running and passing game. Last summer, he got a contract extension and he didn’t show anything last year that should have changed the front office’s opinion of him. Hill has been ineffective over the last two seasons and the drafting of Mixon makes one think Hill will not be resigned next March. I expect Mixon to have a similar workload as Hill did last season (16.2 touches per game) and receive 14-16 touches per game. However, I expect a few less carries than Hill and a couple more receptions. As long as all three are healthy I envision Hill being third in the pecking order and averaging 6-7 touches per game, with some weeks where he barely gets the ball.

I am not nearly as high on Mixon as some, but I believe he has a bright future, especially if Hill is gone next year. If Bernard is not fully healthy I see Mixon getting more targets out of the backfield; however, Hill would probably gain Gio’s share of carries. With all three healthy, I project Mixon receiving 12.0 rushes per game and 2.7 receptions. At 4.3 yards per rush that equates to 826 rushing yards over a full season. Mixon averaged 14.5 yards per reception at Oklahoma last year so he can clearly do damage with the ball in his hands. In the NFL, however, 9.0 yards per catch is more realistic. That is still an additional 389 yards in the air. 1200 yards from scrimmage is very doable, even with Gio keeping his role and Hill staying in the Mix. Predicting his touchdown upside is tough, but he projects as an RB no matter how the TDs fall.

 

The Bengals hit WR hard in the last two drafts; who is the guy to own behind A.J. Green?

@DiBari22: If I had to choose between the last two classes of receivers the Bengals’ selected, I’d go with last year’s class. I like Tyler Boyd more than John Ross and I like Cody Core more than Josh Malone. I expect both Boyd and Core to step up in year-2 and separate themselves from the pack. Boyd and Ross are both safe, but there is a good chance Core or Malone will be looking for a job when the Bengals cut down to their 53-man roster.

@DFF_Madman: I did not like the Bengals draft. Mike Brown loves him some low-hanging fruit. He’s the little kid that can’t resist that bowl of candy. It’s almost predictable that Brown came out of the draft with both John Ross and Mixon.

In startup drafts, Ross can be had in a pretty sweet spot for owners to take a shot, but in rookie drafts, I like several other WRs better as long-term WR1 prospects. Can Ross be a fantasy hero? Yeah, sure. I just don’t buy into the fast, skinny, banged-up guys with one big year of college production. I don’t buy him as the WR2 in this class either. I’ll let other guys draft that kind of player highly. You can read more of my thoughts on Ross and Mixon here.

At some point soon, the Bengals will try this kid opposite of A.J. Green to offset the double teams. His speed should keep secondaries honest. In rookie drafts, I added the much cheaper Ross doppelganger in Stacey Coley… in some cases – free on waivers. This year, I’m most looking forward to seeing Tyler Boyd on the field. Ross was my favorite return guy in this draft though. 🙂 I just hope somebody pulls those double teams away from A.J. Green so he has room to run. Green is the thoroughbred.

 

@NFLDraftTalker: John Ross is flying under the radar in 2017. His current ADP is at 114 overall according to DFF July ADP. For example, this time last year Sterling Shepard was going at 55 in overall ADP. Shepard was chosen as the 40th player in the 2016 NFL draft. Ross conversely was taken as the 9th overall player in this years NFL draft. It seems crazy to me just basing it off of draft capital spent on both of these WRs.

My only concern with Ross is his health. His surgery history includes meniscus surgery on his right knee in January of 2015, ACL surgery on his left knee in April of 2015, and the shoulder surgery during the predraft process. That being said, he was still taken in the top ten of the 2017 NFL draft. I would hope that speaks volumes about how Cincinnati feels about his injury history. If Ross can stay healthy he could be an absolute steal where he’s going in dynasty startups.

Ross is in an offense with weapons all over the field. A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd should hold teams from being able to steer coverage towards Ross. With his combination of metrics, route-running, and red zone efficiency, Ross could be a force in this league as soon as his rookie season. With the news about Mike Williams’ back issues and potential to miss the entire 2017 season, this bumps Ross to the WR2 in this draft class. I would suggest buying him now before his value sky rockets.

@Christipherbean: John Ross profiles as a stud. High Dominator Rating (DR), speed to burn, young breakout age, 1st Round pick. I’m not interested in any of the other recent acquisitions. He’s the type of player in the right situation to explode and have an excellent year 1 in the NFL. His only comp is Santana Moss and it’s an extreme comp. Ross is simply so fast it disqualifies everyone.

We do need to get over this “he’s a burner so he can only run 9-routes” nonsense too. You don’t dominate your team’s receiving in college running “nines.” He’s run a full route tree and is more than a vertical threat. This applies to several players in the last two drafts.

@DynoEconomist: I liked Tyler Boyd coming out, but he had his chance last year and failed to impress. Then, the team went out and drafted a receiver in the top 10. Ninth overall may have been a bit early, but Ross belonged in the first round. Even with a healthy Green, he has WR3 upside as a rookie. I especially love Ross in best ball leagues this year.

 

Is Tyler Eifert always injured?

@DynoEconomist: So far, he’s been hurt a lot. A full 16 game season this year would change a lot of people’s opinions on his injury prone label. I am no expert on injury trends. It seem like some guys are injury prone and some are just unlucky.

That concludes our time with the Bungles. Tomorrow takes us to the “Mistake on the Lake” as we visit with the resurgent Cleveland Browns. Stay tuned!

Thank you for reading. We hope this helps you in your quest to find the Holy Grail of dynasty football.

 

You can follow the DFF Degenerates Roundtable on Twitter: @DFF_Degenerates

Individual Twitter accounts:

@dibari22

@ChristipherBean 

@FatAdamSchefter 

@DFF_JamesH

@NFLDraftTalker

@DynoEconomist 

@DFF_Madman

Previous articles in this series are available here.

 

jbrowand

Dynasty Football Factory Editor, Writer, Ranker, Analyst. Building dynasties one player at a time! Sky's the limit and them haters can't get past that. #Cleveland #Buckeyes #DynastyFootball

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