The winds of change in Cincinnati finally blew in, as Marvin Lewis
was mercifully let go, and Sean McVay protege Zac Taylor was added
as head coach. The Bengals hope plucking a fruit off the McVay tree
will help salvage whatever is left of Andy Daltonís career,
as he returns to lead the offense for the 2019 season. Dalton was
at best mediocre last year before being put in I.R. with a thumb
injury suffered during Week 12. This is likely the final shot the
31-year old has as a starter in this league.
This offense has potential for sure, with two quality wideouts in
Green and Boyd, and an explosive runner in Joe
Mixon. But in order for this offense to take the next step,
Dalton has to be more than simply a game manager, and thatís not
something heís done all too frequently in his career. McVay and
Taylor worked magic with Jared Goff, but can an unproven rookie
head coach catch lighting in a bottle again? The pace of this offense
is certainly going to improve, and at times they will be dangerous
to defend, but I canít bring myself to trust Dalton as anything
more than low-end back-up. Losing 1st round pick Jonah Williams
is going to leave Dalton susceptible to rushes on the blind side
and hurt the consistency of the offense, leaving the Red Rifle to
fire more than a few blanks.
Mixon was finally able to flash the skills than made him one of
the most talented players in the country coming into the 2017 draft.
Despite missing two games due to a mid-season knee scope, Mixon
showed a combination of speed, power, and versatility as he rang
up a solid RB1 season. Keep in mind, that this was an offense that
was missing its quarterback and stud receiver for most of the year.
There are a few reasons why Mixon has a good chance to be a fantasy
asset again in 2019.
I donít claim to know much about the intricacies of the
offensive scheme being put into place, but I can tell you itís
going to look a heck of a lot more modern than what Cinci has
been doing for the past decade. Expect the Bengals to use Mixon
in space more this season, as his loping stride, vision, and power
are miss-matches for defensive backs and linebackers. 50 receptions
arenít out of the question, and he should be even more efficient
touching the ball with a more spread out attack. Losing Jonah
Williams is going to hurt, but this offensive line showed great
improvement last season, and should be decent again this year.
My only hesitation with Mixon is his durability. Heís missed
4 games in his first few seasons, and lower leg injuries seem
to pop up frequently. He showed no ill effects last season after
coming back, but itís something to think about. If Dalton
can get on track and cut down on mistakes, this offense has a
chance to rebound in a big way, putting Mixon squarely in the
Joe Mixonís second year ascendance to the workhorse role
has basically relegated Bernard to mop up duty. With career lowís
across the board, Bernard hangs on to the Cinci roster as a solid
back-up and a veteran who can come in on 3rd down as needed. I
thought the Bengals could and should have upgraded a bit more
at running back than they did, as they are trying to fit lots
of old parts into a new offense, but in reality, Bernard will
give fantasy owners exactly what the Bengals need; an insurance
policy for Mixon and nothing much beyond that.
Itís a very rare thing to have to scroll so far down the rankings
to find A.J. Greenís name. One of the most solidly consistent fantasy
receivers of the last decade, Green enters his age 30 season at
a serious crossroads. He missed seven games due to injury last year,
and has had three fairly lackluster seasons in a row now. Entering
the final year of his contract, Green is going to need a big year
to cash in.
Coming off toe surgery, things sound great for Green this offseason.
He looks to be full go for training camp later this month, and
seems excited about the energy that a new head coach has brought
to the offense. If heís truly over the toe injury that has
lingered for years, and if Coach Taylor can indeed breathe some
life into the playbook, look for Green to find his rightful place
back in the top 10 at his position.
One of the most improbable WR2 finishes in recent memory, Boyd
rocketed up from many league scrap heaps to likely contribute
to more than a fair share of fantasy championships. Doing an insanely
solid A.J. Green impression, Boyd was dependable and a consistent
playmaker on the Bengals offense. Despite missing the final two
weeks of the season, he compiled a 76-1028-7 season, scoring 9
or more standard league points in more than half of his games,
and all of this coming from a guy who was a waiver wire add in
nearly 100 percent of leagues. In retrospect, Boyd gave us a taste
of his capabilities during a solid rookie year. Injuries cost
him six games of his second season, but he rebounded in a big
during that oft publicized ď3rd yearĒ for receivers.
Ok, Boyd had a great 2018, but what about 2019? I think itís
safe to say a healthy A.J. Green will make a repeat season nearly
impossible. But the former 2nd round pick showed last season that
he can handle the heavy lifting in the pass offense, and with
a wide open scheme, Boyd is going to retain fantasy value. Knock
him down a few tiers from last season, but draft him with solid
WR3 value in mind.
For most receivers picked in the top-10 a 21-210-7 line in their
2nd season would be a major disappointment. For Ross, it was a
gigantic improvement over his abysmal rookie year. Yes, you read
the previous sentence correctly, somehow Ross scored a touchdown
33 percent of the time he caught the ball! Suffice to say a major
touchdown regression is on the way for the 3rd year receiver from
Washington. Likely on a do or die season, the colossal bust has
to hope a new coaching staff can coax some more production out
of him. I just donít see it happening. Heís never
projected as a possession guy, and for a player whoís known
for his deep threat speed, his yards-per-catch average was mere
decimal places better than Kyle Rudolph (yuck!) last year. Iíd
be shocked if this Bengal offense can support more than two fantasy
viable pass catchers, and Ross wonít be one of them.
As Iíve researched and subsequently written about the players
for this Outlook, Iíve realized just what a strange juxtaposition
this Bengals offense is. They just about cleaned house in the
offensive coaching room (quarterbacks and wide receiver coaches
were retained), but did nothing to drastically change the offensive
personnel. This says to me that the staff and front office believes
the current players fit the scheme perfectly, OR and this is possible
considering this organization, they simply have no clue or are
too cheap to do anything about it. The lack of change is evident
here with the tight end position, as they resigned both Eifert
and Uzomah this offseason. As typical as his career, Eifert can
be dominant while on the field. And thatís the problem.
Eifert has only been healthy enough to play in 14 games over the
past three seasons and anything the Bengals get from him this
year will be a bonus. Eifert has been a trap for several years
now. Unlike the Bengals, you should move on.
Uzomah had a career year last season, putting up a solid 43-439-3
line over 16 games. He was a reliable, if unexciting option in
the passing game, but is in for a steep regression if Eifert and
Green return to health. This hybrid Rams offense that’s
coming also doesn’t rely heavily on the tight end position,
so don’t expect a repeat of the 66 targets either. Even
with all the work to himself last season he was barely a TE2.