Summer Sleeper: Cincinnati Bengals

Bruce Matson

We begin our annual 32-part Summer Sleeper series where DLF scribes identify a lightly-touted player on each NFL roster who may be worthy of your consideration. Our subjects all have varying levels of “sleeperness,” but each merits a bit of in-depth discussion here in the Premium Content section.

To help everybody along, we are going to be categorizing our sleepers under one of three headings:

  • Super Deep Sleepers – Players who aren’t roster-worthy in 12-team leagues, but are still worth keeping an eye on.
  • Deep Sleepers – An end of the roster player who is more often than not on the waiver wire in 12-team leagues.
  • Sleeper – A likely rostered player who makes for a good trade target. Their startup ADP puts them out of the top-175 or so.

Because we aren’t going give you the likes of mainstream sleepers like Tyler Lockett or Carlos Hyde, most of these players will undoubtedly fizzle. All we are asking is for you to keep an open mind and perhaps be willing to make room for one of these players on your bench. You never know when the next Willie Snead is going to spring up.  Feel free to add your own thoughts about our choice for the designated sleeper, or nominate one of your own in the comments below.

AJ Green has led the Bengals in receiving yards every year since his rookie season in 2011 and he’s considered one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Last season he owned 26.14 percent of the team’s passing targets and 31.6 percent of team’s total passing offense, proving he’s an integral part of the offense. He also finished last season eighth in the league with 1,297 receiving yards and tenth in the league with ten receiving touchdowns.

Tyler Eifert was another important piece to the Bengals’ passing offense last season, catching 52 receptions for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 14.9 fantasy points per game. Eifert’s lengthy injury history has curtailed his progress and he’s currently rehabbing from ankle surgery causing him to possibly miss the first couple games of the season, creating a void in the passing game that must be filled.

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Cody Core, WR CIN

Category: Super Deep Sleeper

The Bengals selected Core in the sixth round (199 overall), because they needed to add depth to their wide receiver corps. He was overshadowed by Laquon Treadwell at Ole Miss which is one of the reasons why he didn’t receive much hype going into the draft.

core

Perhaps one of the reasons why he fell so far in the draft was his lack of productivity in college as he only caught 1,297 yards and ten touchdowns during his four-year collegiate career. He didn’t take advantage of the opportunities that were granted to him during his junior season when Treadwell missed the final four games of the season due to an injury. During that span, Core caught a dismal 12 receptions for 143 yards and one touchdown, while owning just a 15.25 percent market share of the team’s passing offense. His senior season was uneventful, since he only produced one game with over 100-yards receiving while only grasping a 14.83 percent market share of the team’s passing offense.

Core’s size, speed athleticism are the main reasons why he was drafted in the sixth round. His 6’2’’ 205-pound frame combined with his 4.47 forty-yard dash and his 6.75 three-cone makes him a salivating athletic prospect.

core 2

Athletically, Core draws a striking resemblance to AJ Green, giving the inference that Core could possibly play a similar role within the offense if Green were to go down with an injury. One thing to note – Core increased his vertical jump to 37.5 inches during his pro-day. I don’t know what happened to create such a variance, but it’s something pay attention to. His athleticism could help him see the field during the early stages of his career.

His ball-skills are one of his biggest attributes due to his ability to out-leap defenders and make a play on the ball. However, he’s a poor route runner with suspect hands as he allows the ball to drift into his body while attempting to catch the football while running short to intermediate routes. Drops could potentially be an issue at the next level.

There’s not much depth behind AJ Green on the depth chart, once you get past Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd the receiver corps gets rather thin. An injury to one of the starters could create opportunities for Core. Even with him being a raw prospect, the volume from the passing offense could be enough to potentially deliver replacement level fantasy production.

A lot of people are currently sleeping on Core as he’s currently not ranked in DLF’s rookie wide receiver rankings and according to his DLF’s rookie ADP, he is rarely getting drafted in rookie drafts. All it takes is an injury to one of the starting wide receivers for him to get a chance to make an impact on the roster and you never know, he could be one of those late round wide receivers to come out of nowhere and take the league by storm. Depending on the size of your league, he should be considered an end-of-bench flier or a player that’s on your watch list due to his athleticism. Don’t make any irrational moves trying to acquire him because the odds are stacked against him and more than likely he will never become a consistent fantasy asset.

Tyler Kroft, TE Cincinnati Bengals

Category: Deep Sleeper

Tyler Eifert, the incumbent starter, could potentially miss a few games during the beginning of the season, opening the door for Kroft to showcase his skill-set as the team’s starting tight end while Eifert is out of the lineup.

The Bengals spent a third round pick in the 2015 draft to acquire Kroft. He was drafted to provide depth at tight end because the Bengals needed to have their bases covered due to Eifert’s lengthy injury history. Eifert has yet to play a full 16-game season, leading us to believe that the Bengals are concerned about his ability to stay healthy. Kroft could become the main beneficiary if Eifert’s injury woes continue.

In limited action, Kroft managed to catch 11 receptions for 129 yards and one touchdown. Rookie tight ends rarely breakout during their inaugural season and with him receiving limited opportunities within the offense, the odds were very low that he would have made an impact in fantasy as a rookie. Like most young developmental prospects, he should gradually get acclimated to the offense and see an expanded role as he progresses.

What’s exciting about Kroft, is his athletic prowess, as his 6’5’’ 246-pound frame combined with his 4.75 40-yard dash and 7.18 three-cone makes him a miss-match for linebackers. He caught 70 receptions for 901 yards and five touchdowns during his three-year collegiate career at Rutgers. Not only is he athletic, but he’s a very good at both pass and run blocking which is a skill that could help him see the field in the future.

Kroft currently has an ADP of 233, making him the 33rd tight end off the board in most drafts. This makes him a tremendous value considering his age and his current situation. Kroft is one injury away from becoming the starting tight end for one of the most prolific passing offenses in the NFL. Quarterback Andy Dalton likes to target the tight end around the red zone and if Eifert is out for a considerable amount of time with an injury, Kroft could step in and become fantasy relevant. There’s always a chance that he could earn a permanent role within the offense once he’s given the opportunity to prove himself, which is why he’s an entertaining thought as a deep sleeper in dynasty leagues. He should be owned in all leagues as an end-of-bench stash, unless the league’s roster requirements are extremely shallow. His fantasy value is 100 percent dependent on Eifert’s health and whether he could build a rapport with Dalton. Keep in mind that the dominoes might not fall in his favor and he might not ever get an opportunity to prove himself, which is why it’s not wise to invest premium capital trying to acquire him, but he would be a perfect throw in piece in a larger trade.

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bruce matson
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