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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Cincinnati Bengals

Senior Fantasy Writer
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You might find this shocking, but the Cincinnati Bengals aren't in a position to contend for the Super Bowl. At least not based on how their offseason has unfolded.

Franchise quarterback Carson Palmer played the "trade me or I retire" card in the spring, but because of the lockout he's still Bengals property. For what it's worth, team owner Mike Brown has said repeatedly that he will not trade Palmer, but he also spent a second-round pick on TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. So either Brown is bluffing about trading Palmer or does not think Palmer is bluffing on his retirement threat.

Meanwhile Brown did get rid of long-time offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, replacing him with Arena League veteran coach Jay Gruden, brother of former NFL head coach Jon Gruden. He'll bring the West Coast offense to Cincinnati and pair it with Marvin Lewis' defense.

Running back Cedric Benson is sweeter on the Bengals than Palmer, but he's also looking for a new contract as a free agent. His best chance to shine is if he stays with Cincy and picks up Gruden's offense. The receiving corps is a mess, however. Terrell Owens isn't expected to re-sign and had surgery for a torn ACL in April. Chad Ochocinco has spent more time doing stunts than working with teammates. Jerome Simpson has put in work this offseason with other Bengals but watched the team select A.J. Green, a receiver out of Georgia, with a first-round pick.

Meanwhile, no upgrades were made to the Bengals' offensive line, pass rush or safety spots. It's going to be a challenging season in the Queen City.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value
Quarterbacks
Carson Palmer
Andy Dalton
Running Backs
Cedric Benson
Bernard Scott
Wide Receivers
A.J. Green
Jerome Simpson
Terrell Owens
Jordan Shipley
Andre Caldwell
Tight Ends
Jermaine Gresham
Kickers/Defense
Mike Nugent
Bengals DST

Impact rookie ... Andy Dalton, QB

If Palmer isn't starting for the Bengals as many people suspect, Dalton should slide right into the starting job. He was impressive in college, sporting a 66.2 completion percentage while running the spread offense and leading the Horned Frogs to a glut of wins. He's a smart player with a good arm, and between that and his accuracy it's believed that he can run the Bengals' offense pretty quickly. Four quarterbacks went in the first round of the NFL draft, but Dalton's skills combined with his opportunity to start right away could make him the most productive rookie passer for Fantasy owners to consider. His receiving corps, though young and unproven, does have a lot of potential.

Keeper-league target ... Jermaine Gresham, TE

There are lots of interesting sleeper tight ends out there, but Gresham is one that should be on the long-term owner's radar. He's got the size you want in a tight end, along with nice big hands. He'll play a lot for Cincinnati again in 2011, and the West Coast offense should suit him well. Gruden said some tough words about him this offseason, but even Gruden will tell you that a man of that size and ability is worth the time and effort to improve. If we're talking about getting a guy to stash on a roster for a year or two and watch develop, Gresham's a pretty good selection.

Bust ... Chad Ochocinco, WR

We suspect that Ocho won't return to Cincinnati as his salary is too big for his dwindling production and he has no-showed player-only workouts over the spring and summer. Plus, the Bengals just drafted A.J. Green and saw Jerome Simpson develop toward the end of the year. The most likely landing spot for Ochocinco is Oakland, where he'll reunite with former position coach Hue Jackson (now the Raiders' head coach) and give the receiving corps some much needed leadership and a good set of hands. Can he still play in the NFL? Sure, but the days of him being a 1,000-yard receiver with more than seven scores are pretty much past him. He seems more interested in off-the-field pursuits than anything else. If you do draft him, expect him to fill in as a one-week replacement during the season. He's a late-round pick.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@CLE @DEN SF BUF @JAC IND bye @SEA @TEN PIT @BAL CLE @PIT HOU @STL ARI BAL

If Dalton does end up as the Bengals' starting quarterback, he'll luck out with a nice slate. Ditto for Cedric Benson. Save for the divisional brouhahas against the Steelers and Ravens, there's not too much to fear. They do play the Steelers twice and the Ravens once over a four week span (Weeks 10-13), but the rest of the schedule is really not bad. They start off the year with a favorable run and end the season with Baltimore at home, saving a bad matchup for owners that don't play into Week 17.

2010 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Cedric Benson 349
Terrell Owens 72
Bernard Scott 72
Chad Ochocinco 67
Jordan Shipley 52
Jermaine Gresham 52

Training camp topics

Not only is Cincinnati's roster in flux, but those offensive players who stick with the team will have to learn Gruden's West Coast offense quickly. Remember, Gruden hasn't had much offseason contact with these players because of the labor situation, so growing pains are to be expected, and they could potentially get ugly if multiple rookies begin the season as starters.

The new coaching staff could also be a problem for receivers Jerome Simpson, Jordan Shipley and Andre Caldwell. Not that the coaches are going to be tough on them, but because it's a new offense to learn and they could take a little time to get accustomed. Simpson is the most interesting name on the list after he ended 2010 with 18 catches for 247 yards and three touchdowns against the Chargers and Ravens in Weeks 16 and 17. He's got the tools to be a big-time receiver for the Bengals, but he's at the same starting point as Green and all the other receivers on the roster.

The Bengals don't have a new defensive playbook to learn or scheme to master, but they do have to find a way to retain cornerback Johnathan Joseph. The stellar cornerback is set for free agency this offseason and would open up a pretty big hole in the Bengal defense if he left. The defense is already shaky at safety and might potentially get rocked by speedy slot receivers and tight ends regularly, so they don't need to lose Joseph on top of that.

And if all the problems for the Bengals weren't enough, they don't have a kicker locked on the roster. Mike Nugent is coming off of a knee injury and Clint Stitser is ... well, Clint Stitser. He missed two extra points last year.

Injury update

Mike Nugent (knee; questionable for the start of training camp) ... Antwan Odom (wrist; probable for the start of training camp).

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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Player News
Steelers K Shaun Suisham scores nine points vs. Bengals
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:53 am ET) Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham made two field goals and three extra points in his team's 27-17 win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Suisham connected from 29 and 25 yards out in the second quarter to help give his team a 20-10 halftime advantage, and they were able to maintain that margin in the second half. The kicker finishes the regular season with 29 field goals in 32 attempts, but he went just 1-for-3 in attempts of 50 yards or more, with both misses coming at home. He'll have to kick at home in the first round of the playoffs when the Ravens come to town Saturday.


Steelers WR Martavis Bryant catches TD in Week 17 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:50 am ET) Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant had just one catch on two targets Sunday but scored a 21-yard touchdown in his team's 27-17 win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Bryant was targeted on a screen pass in the second quarter and split his blockers en route to an easy score on his only catch of the night. He wraps up his rookie season with 26 receptions, 549 yards and eight touchdowns. Bryant will match up with the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs Saturday.


Steelers WR Antonio Brown scores two TDs in Week 17 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:48 am ET) Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown caught seven of his 13 targets for 128 yards with one touchdown and added a 71-yard punt return touchdown in his team's 27-17 division-clinching win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Brown fielded a first-quarter punt on one side of the field and took the ball halfway across the field to his right before changing directions and sprinting back to his left, outrunning the punt coverage team to the edge and racing ahead for the first score of the game. He made an outstanding adjustment on a fourth-quarter pass that was well defended to beat his man and cut past another would-be tackler for a 63-yard touchdown that gave his quarterback a share of the season passing-yardage lead.

Brown had his own stack of accomplishments in 2014, finishing with franchise-best marks in receiving while leading the league with 129 receptions and 1,698 receiving yards while also racking up 13 receiving touchdowns. He'll square off with a depleted Ravens secondary at home in the first round of the playoffs Saturday.


Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger finishes 2014 as passing coleader
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:40 am ET) Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 24 of his 38 passes for 317 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in his team's 27-17 win over the Bengals in Week 17.

Roethlisberger connected with Martavis Bryant on a screen pass for a 21-yard score in the second quarter then appeared to be completely in sync with leading receiver Antonio Brown on a 63-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that featured an excellent adjustment from the receiver on well-covered route. That play, which was Roethlisberger's last completion of the day, left the Pittsburgh quarterback with a share of the passing lead on the season, tying Drew Brees with 4,952 passing yards.

Roethlisberger racked up 32 touchdowns while throwing just nine interceptions, and he managed to start all 16 regular-season games for just the third time in his career. With the win, the Steelers wrap up the AFC North title and the No. 3 seed in the AFC. They'll face the Ravens at home Saturday in the first round of the playoffs.


Bengals' Mike Nugent makes one FG, misses one in Week 17 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:33 am ET) Bengals kicker Mike Nugent made just one of his two field-goal attempts in Sunday night's 27-17 loss to the Steelers in Week 17.

Nugent was able to nail a 39-yard field goal early in the second quarter, but after a Bengals drive stalled to open the second half, he was wide right on a 50-yard attempt. The kicker ends the regular season with 26 field goals on 33 attempts, but he hadn't missed since Week 6 before Sunday's season finale. Nugent will kick indoors in the first round of the playoffs as the Bengals head to Indianapolis to face the Colts.


Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham catches TD vs. Steelers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:30 am ET) Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham caught all three of his targets for 20 yards with one touchdown in his team's 27-17 win over the Steelers in Week 17.

Gresham came out of the game twice in the first half with a back issue and was deemed questionable to return after his second exit from the game. He was able to make it back and score a fourth-quarter touchdown to bring his team within three points, though he appeared to be shaken up on the play.

Gresham ends the regular season with 62 receptions, 460 yards and five touchdowns, including a score in each of his last three games. He'll have a full week to recuperate before the Bengals face the Colts in Indianapolis Sunday.


Bengals RB Giovani Bernard scores TD vs. Steelers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:26 am ET) Bengals running back Giovani Bernard rushed for eight yards on just three carries but racked up seven receptions on eight targets for 56 yards and a touchdown in his team's 27-17 loss to the Steelers Sunday.

Bernard displayed excellent athleticism on his 17-yard score in the first quarter, grabbing a short pass across the middle of the field and hurdling over a defender on his way to the end zone. While he's seen his role in the running game reduced in recent weeks, Bernard remains an integral part of the passing attack, catching touchdowns in back-to-back games over the last two weeks.

Bernard ends the regular season with 680 rushing yards on 168 carries and 349 receiving yards on 43 receptions along with seven total touchdowns. He'll square off with the Colts in the first round of the playoffs Sunday.


Bengals RB Jeremy Hill rushes for 100 yards vs. Steelers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:23 am ET) Bengals running back Jeremy Hill rushed for 100 yards on 23 carries and added 10 more yards on two receptions in his team's 27-17 loss to the Steelers in Week 17.

Hill closed out his rookie season with three consecutive 100-yard efforts, and he reached the mark five times over the course of the year. He ends the regular season with 1,124 rushing yards on 222 carries as well as 215 receiving yards on 27 receptions to go with 11 touchdowns.

Hill will square off with the Colts Sunday in the first round of the playoffs.


Bengals WR A.J. Green in concussion protocol
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is in the concussion protocol after exiting Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Steelers with a head injury, the team announced.

Green lost a fumble and took a shot to the head in the fourth quarter of the game, sending him to the locker room for examination. He finished the game with a team-high eight receptions and 82 yards. Green secured his fourth-straight 1,000-yard season with the performance, ending the regular season with 1,041 yards and six touchdowns on 69 receptions.

The Bengals will head to Indianapolis to face the Colts Sunday, leaving Green with a full week to get cleared.


Bengals QB Andy Dalton throws two TDs in Week 17 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:14 am ET) Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton completed 27 of his 38 pass attempts for 244 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in Sunday night's 27-17 loss to the Steelers.

Dalton hit Giovani Bernard with a pass over the middle of the field in the red zone, and he was able to leap over a defender en route to the pylon to score a 17-yard touchdown. Dalton's second score came on a five-yard pass to Jermaine Gresham in the fourth quarter, with the tight end doing most of the work after the catch.

Dalton ends the regular season with 3,398 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 17 interceptions as well as 169 rushing yards on 60 carries with another four scores on the ground. The Bengals will head to Indianapolis for a first-round matchup with the Colts Sunday.


 
 
 
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