As part of the premium content package, we’re unveiling dynasty capsules for every team in the NFL all Spring and Summer. This year, we also have a follow-up to every team capsule, with more detail on one of our favorite pieces – the dynasty sleeper. We continue our alphabetical journey through the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Dalton didn’t set the quarterback position ablaze with his 2011 performance, but as a rookie, his numbers were noteworthy. His 3,398 yards passing and a 20:13 touchdown to interception ratio provided some level of excitement for the Bengals faithful on the heels of losing Carson Palmer to the Raiders. Dalton’s completion percentage (58.1%) will need to be improved upon in 2012, but another year of experience for the ultra-impressive A.J. Green along with a new corps of incoming rookie receivers should provide a foundation of youth to build upon. So much youth at receiver could suggest little improvement in his completion percentage, but that remains to be seen.
At just 24 years of age, Dalton started from game one of the 2011 season and proved that confidence and work ethic can overshadow what was said to be inferior arm strength. The Bengals coaching staff continues to deny concerns over Dalton’s arm even while reports of sub-par strength from the media continue to dog him in the off-season. But as has been the case since entering the league, the coaching staff and fellow receivers continue to shrug off the comments citing his ability to make all the throws necessary in their precision timing scheme. Tape review of Dalton shows he most certainly doesn’t have a cannon upon his shoulder, but that his out patterns and deep routes have enough arm to get the ball where it needs to be. That said, reports are that on throws outside the numbers, Dalton’s completion percentage was less than 39% and featured more interceptions than touchdowns. What will 2012 bring?
Dalton, who was ranked around the QB16 (depending on your scoring format) to end the season, presents a classic young QB2 opportunity in fantasy. He brings tremendous confidence and leadership to the huddle, has full support of the coaching staff and his teammates and, best of all, he’s the unquestioned starter for a young up-and-coming team. With Cedric Benson departed via free agency and BenJarvus Green-Ellis now in the mix alongside Bernard Scott, passes to the backfield should be more of a focus in 2012 as well. All arrows are pointing up for this young team and their new signal caller. Whether Dalton can eventually climb his way into the top ten may not be answered for a few years and likely depends on the development of his young receivers, but he’s still a quarterback worthy of acquiring in trade or as a star-up draft selection after you secure your QB1.
Gradkowski, now with his fourth team in his seven year career, enters his second year as a Bengal and is clearly the QB2 on the roster. In spot starts for Tampa Bay and Oakland, he’s had some level of success and has a level of mobility that brings another dynamic to his game. In short, he’s a worthwhile backup quarterback who has some upside, but shouldn’t be owned in fantasy. He’s a bit undersized at 6’1″ and has a live arm, but isn’t likely going to be anything more than a backup in the NFL.
The best thing you can say about Gradkowski’s prospects going forward is that he plays behind the Dalton and could get time should the wheels come off the Bengals offense.
The sophomore quarterback out of Oklahoma State isn’t in the picture, whether it be the NFL or fantasy. Move along.
While we’re not inclined to call BGE a sleeper, he has many of those same qualities needed to be just that. The Bengals employ a power running game that made Cedric Benson a notable starter on more than a few occasions. Benson is now gone via free agency and the Bengals made a relatively quick acquisition of Green-Ellis, a back much in the mold of Benson, but with better hands out of the backfield. When Benson departed, many believed that Bernard Scott, a player who has teased fantasy owners for nearly three years, would be the heir apparent. As it turns out, Scott is seen more as of a change of pace back and doesn’t bring enough of the downhill running style that coach Marvin Lewis prefers. Instead, it appears as though BGE is going to get plenty of opportunities to show he can be a productive back.
At 5’11” and 215 pounds, Green-Ellis has been able to maintain a 4.0 yards per carry average while also proving he has a nose for the end zone. In both 2010 and 2011, BGE scored double-digit touchdowns, totaling 24 over the two year span. Almost as important, he has yet to fumble even a single time. Still just 26 years of age, the Bengals may be looking at their bell-cow back for the next three to four years. In fantasy, BGE has never been more than a high RB3 due to his touchdown productivity, but with an increase in carries, he may well ascend to a quality RB2 starter. Much remains to be seen as to how the Bengals will use the tandem of Scott and Green-Ellis, but BGE is a lock be the lead back in our opinion.
Many backs will hear their names called before BGE come dynasty start-up draft day. That fact alone makes Green-Ellis a sleeper candidate as a primary back in a young offense. He’s not sexy, nor is he a lock for a 1,000 yard season, but as a back off the radar, you’d likely be hard pressed to find a better value as he falls in your draft.
Seeing that he’s already 28, Scott owners were hopeful that with the departure of Cedric Benson the path would be clear for him to finally attain lead back duties. Instead, the Bengals added Green-Ellis from the Patriots, thus cementing Scott’s role as complementary back for what will likely be the remainder of his career. Barring an injury to BGE, he will continue to serve as a change of pace back with some level of third down ability.
Scott did manage 112 carries for 380 yards and three touchdowns, but was only able to achieve a 3.4 yards per carry average. Out of the backfield, he averaged less than one reception per game as well, even while he seemingly has good enough hands for a greater workload in that regard. Either way, it’s obvious that the Bengals don’t envision Scott as anything more than that dreaded “change of pace” role that dynasty owners hate to hear. Marvin Lewis has suggested that Scott will be in for a greater workload, but we’ve heard that before. With Green-Ellis’ all around ability, durability and reliable hands, we don’t expect Scott’s role to be expanded to any material degree.
Scott must still be rostered, either as handcuff to BGE or as a depth chart back who could hear his name called should the injury bug bite. The lack of mileage on his tired suggests that he could be productive into his thirties, but that will likely only string along the fantasy frustration that Scott owners have endured while waiting for greener pastures.
Coming out of Rutgers in 2007, many fantasy coaches had high hopes for Leonard. Possessing good size at 6’1″ and 225 pounds and with a good level of agility, the thought was that Leonard just may be the back to fly in the face of historical expectations and experience. Five years and 141 carries later, it simply wasn’t meant to be.
Leonard’s first-year carries (86) have eclipsed all following years combined, but his career 3.8 yards per carry average never suggested anything more than a short-yardage or occasional third down role. Leonard has adept hands out of the backfield and whether due to the struggles of the Bengals during this time or his durability, his touches continue to erode. Not enough fantasy allure remains in Leonard for him to exist anywhere other than your league’s wiaver wire.
A sixth round selection in the 2012 draft, Dan Herron would have been selected earlier if not for a disappointing 40 time (4.66). Herron is the type of back who has enough ability to eventually get an opportunity at a starting role should injury strike, but not enough elite talent to be drafted for that role. He’s a willing runner who should have the ability to run between the tackles, but one that hasn’t been tested there consistently. He has enough agility and wiggle to be productive on the outside as well and he’s a willing and able blocker on blitz protection.
Herron has enough tangibles to obviously be rostered ahead of Brian Leonard in fantasy and could be a sleeper for a greater role with his second contract in the NFL
Green missed a single game due to injury, but otherwise collected 65 receptions for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie. Furthermore, he was able to accomplish this with a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton under center for the entire 2011 campaign. With a young and developing offense around him, all arrows are pointing higher for Green in 2012. Ultra-talented and possessing and extremely wide catch radius and elite leaping skills, Green does most of his work outside the hash marks and is seemingly Moss-like in the red zone. As he develops and learns how to best use his body to shield defenders from the ball, he’ll only be more productive.
The Bengals have an extremely young and unproven receiving corps and it’s still an unknown as to who will be starting across from Green come September. Until an established WR2 can become a consistent receiving threat in the offense, Green is going to have to prove his worth and ability by beating double and bracket coverages designed to eliminate him as an option. Defenses already have been successful limiting Green’s production and fantasy owners may be expecting too much in 2012 given the youth movement in Cincinnati. Greater experience and chemistry between Green and Dalton will most certainly pay dividends, but it’s not a guarantee that he’ll put up true WR1 numbers as soon as this upcoming season.
Finding flaws or drawbacks to Green’s game, however, is an exercise reserved for the uninformed, at least as it relates to the dynasty format. In a game where all eyes are on young cornerstone talent, you’d be hard pressed to find one more deserving of an early round selection than A.J. Green.
Selected in the third round, Cincinnati continued their youth movement at receiver with Sanu. If not for his expected slow 40 time (4.67), Sanu would have been a much higher selection.
Somewhat of a plodding receiver, Sanu is a physical presence across the middle and working underneath routes, but has very little long game. However, with A.J. Green working outside the numbers, yardage and space should be plentiful in the short and intermediate routes. Mohamed Sanu has the hands, attitude and skill to excel in this role. He has work to do to secure a currently wide-open WR2 role in the offense, but word out of camp is that he is right there in the competition. Should Sanu hold off the competition for this role, he could very well push for WR2 production in PPR leagues.
Don’t count out Tate this off-season. Word out of camp is that he currently leads the pack for the open WR2 competition. Tate has been smooth and dynamic in camp thus far and only has a stable of rookie and inexperienced receivers, albeit talented, to beat out for a starting role.
After two years with the Patriots (primarily as a kick/punt return specialist), Tate was never fully integrated into the offense. To his credit, he did pull in 24 receptions and 432 yards for a noteworthy 18 yard reception average in 2011, but it wasn’t enough to stick on the roster. At 6’1″ and 195 pounds, he has the speed and ability to complement A.J. Green on offense, while also providing the Bengals with a much needed boost in the return game. He may be on your waiver wire now, so continue to watch the camp reports and add him when his role becomes more clear.
Cincinnati’s version of Wes Welker in the slot is returning from a torn ACL in week two, but should be at full speed once training camp is underway.
Behind Carson Palmer, Shipley hauled in 52 receptions for 600 yards and three touchdowns in 2010. He’s not without talent, but it remains to be seen how he’s used in an offense that looks to highlight more athletic receivers. That said, if the concerns about Dalton’s arm strength are valid from the coaching staff, Shipley could be in for a big role in routes parallel to the line of scrimmage.
We focused our attention on Binns as our pick for the Bengals sleeper.
A fifth round selection, Marvin Jones is known as a good route runner with deceptive speed, good hands and from a NFL system. Better yet for the rookie, Jones finds himself on a roster with many new faces at receiver vying for a starter’s role across from A.J. Green. As of this writing, it’s said that the aforementioned Mohamed Sanu and Brandon Tate are leading the race currently but Jones did flash early in camp and has caught the eye of the coaching staff. Sanu is more of a possession receiver and Tate has never been a consistent threat which leaves the door open for Jones to further impress. With his NFL skill-set, if Jones can see snaps early, he’s a candidate to be productive early in his career.
The athletic Gresham continues to provide consistent NFL and fantasy production.
As the TE15 in PPR scoring last year, Gresham is a solid TE2 in fantasy, but is still young and with upside to the top ten if the Bengals expand his role. We’ve spoken a lot here about the youth of the Bengals and Gresham is another case of that. In his case, however, he’s entering his third year and is a veteran within their system. With two years running of fifty-plus receptions, a third year looks to be safe to predict. Gresham also increased his touchdown production to six with Dalton at the helm, so chemistry should only get better with more time.
Gresham is one of those players that we like to surprise more on the upside rather than to the downside. As such, draft him a bit earlier in PPR leagues as a good risk-reward selection.
The ten year veteran only played nine games for the Packers and primarily in blocking situations. He’s not nearly as athletic or dynamic in his route-running as is Gresham. There exists no reason for him to be rostered in fantasy.
Charles is as strong as they come at the position, pushing up the 225 pound bench press 35 times at the NFL Combine. He’s also equally adept at blocking as he is receiving and, in time, could be an every down player for the Bengals. If not for the young and athletic Gresham already on the roster, Charles could be starting in 2012. As it stands, he’ll have to fight for time and make good on his opportunities when they’re presented. Without and injury to Gresham, it’s hard to project any material fantasy production inside of two years. At 6’2″, he’s not overly tall in the position and his bulk could be a factor in limiting his downfield ability.