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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Cincinnati Bengals

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Bengals overhauled their offense last year when they replaced Carson Palmer with Andy Dalton and Chad Ochocinco with A.J. Green. Most people would agree those moves were upgrades.

Dalton finished as a Top 15 Fantasy quarterback as a rookie, and he enters this year as a high-end No. 2 passer worth a late-round pick. Green turned into an elite Fantasy option as the No. 16 receiver, also as a rookie, and he should be considered a No. 1 receiver worth a pick in Round 3.

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Now, the Bengals are making another switch, this time at running back. Cedric Benson is gone and BenJarvus Green-Ellis has left the Patriots to step into the starting role after signing a three-year deal in March.

Green-Ellis should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy running back since Cincinnati will lean on him more than New England did. He has a tremendous opportunity to get the majority of carries. The Bengals will use Bernard Scott as a change of pace rusher and on passing situations, but Green-Ellis will be considered the featured back.

We know Green-Ellis is good at two things, which is scoring touchdowns and not losing any fumbles. He had 24 touchdowns the past two years with at least 11 in each season and never lost a fumble over that span in 410 carries.

But since he played for the Patriots, he was never used like a workhorse rusher. Last year he had just four games with more than 15 carries, and he has 27 games with fewer than 20 carries and 10 games with fewer than 10 carries the past two seasons.

That will change with the Bengals since Benson averaged 298 carries a year for the past three years, and we'll find out if Green-Ellis is ready for that kind of workload. He should easily match Benson's production over that span, which was 1,143 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

Green-Ellis wasn't the ideal replacement for Benson (we would have preferred another free agent like Michael Bush), but he has the chance to succeed given his opportunity. He should be drafted around Round 5, and hopefully he can rush for 1,200 yards and score double digits in touchdowns. That would make it another positive change for the Bengals offense over the past two years.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Andy Dalton 12
Running Backs
BenJarvus Green-Ellis 5
Bernard Scott ND
Brian Leonard ND
Wide Receivers
A.J. Green 3
Mohamed Sanu ND
Jordan Shipley ND
Marvin Jones ND
Tight Ends
Jermaine Gresham 9
Kickers/Defense
Mike Nugent ND
Bengals DST ND
ND - not expected to get drafted

Breakout ... Jermaine Gresham, tight end
Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said he wants Gresham to play like Rob Gronkowski. Those are lofty expectations, but Gresham certainly has the talent. We consider Gresham the No. 2 option in the passing game for the Bengals behind Green, and he has done a nice job scoring touchdowns in his first two years with 10. But we need Gresham to score 10 touchdowns this year if he's going to take the next step in his career. The good thing about Gresham is you can wait on him in your draft. While other owners reach for Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham in the first three rounds, you can secure standout running backs and receivers and then take Gresham later. If he plays as expected then he will reward you with your patience.

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Impact rookie ... Mohamed Sanu, wide receiver
The Bengals are also in the market for a starting receiver after Jerome Simpson left as a free agent for Minnesota. Sanu will compete with fellow rookie Marvin Jones to start opposite Green, but we expect Sanu to win the job. He is a productive receiver who had 115 catches for 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns last season with Rutgers. Green recently raved about Sanu that he's a more polished receiver than he was as a rookie, and he could be a great red-zone target at 6-foot-2, 211 pounds. If he does win the starting job then he could be worth a late-round pick in deeper leagues. He's also worth a mid-to-late pick in dynasty/keeper leagues and a second-round pick in rookie-only drafts.

Bounce-back candidate ... Jordan Shipley, wide receiver
Shipley is not going to get drafted in the majority of leagues, and he could still be slow in his recovery from last year's torn ACL. But for owners in PPR leagues, you should put Shipley on your radar. As a rookie in 2010 he had 52 catches for 600 yards and three touchdowns. He will see most of his time in the slot, and he should get plenty of single coverage with Green, Gresham and Sanu drawing most of the attention. Don't expect him to have huge yardage or touchdown totals, but he could lead the Bengals in receptions if he's healthy by Week 1. Dalton is going to like relying on Shipley as his safety valve on short and intermediate routes.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@BAL CLE @WAS @JAC MIA @CLE PIT bye DEN NYG @KC OAK @SD DAL @PHI @PIT BAL
Cincinnati will play on the road in three of its first four games with a date at Baltimore in Week 1. The team also landed what is probably the toughest three-game homestand anyone will have this season with the Steelers, Broncos and Giants coming in succession. Then they play the Steelers in Pittsburgh in Week 16 after playing the Eagles in Philly on the last Thursday night game of the season. Then once that's done they finish the season at home vs. the Ravens. In between all those rough patches they have some favorable matchups, but unless they can rise to the level of play of their opponents they're decidedly looking at an 8-8 type of season. Aside from the games against the Ravens and Steelers, the Bengals' run game shouldn't be too challenged.

Training camp topics

Green said in June he plans to work out with Larry Fitzgerald prior to training camp, and that has been a great thing for receivers in the past (see Greg Jennings and Sidney Rice, among others). We hope Green learns a thing or two because he can continue to be a dominant force for the Bengals and Fantasy owners.

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Cedric Benson 273 carries, 15 catches
Bernard Scott 112 carries, 13 catches
A.J. Green 65 catches, 5 carries
Jermaine Gresham 56 catches
Jerome Simpson 50 catches

The No. 2 receiver battle should be fun to watch between Sanu and Jones, and we hope Shipley can return at 100 percent. It will also be interesting to see if Gruden follows through on his offseason pledge to use Gresham like the Patriots use Gronkowski, which would only enhance his value.

The Bengals are expected to use Scott and Brian Leonard in passing situations, but Green-Ellis' value could improve if he gets some time on passing downs. And Dalton now has plenty of weapons to succeed. The Bengals are headed in the right direction, and they are hoping for a return trip to the playoffs after losing in the wild-card round to Houston last year.

Injury update

Shipley (knee; probable for the start of training camp) ... Leon Hall (Achilles' tendon; questionable for the start of training camp)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Texans' O'Brien: WR DeAndre Hopkins can 'be one of the best'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is very encouraged by the performance of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last season, per ESPN. O'Brien went as far as to say that Hopkins can be one of the best.

"He had a really productive year," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "The thing that we really like about Hop and that we want him to continue to do is his work ethic. He’s a hungry player. He works every single day. He came into the spring a year ago and he was learning the offense and thinking out there, then all of a sudden you could see all the work he put in and learning, he just took off."

Due to the departure of wide receiver Andre Johnson, the progression of Hopkins will be under the microscope as he is now the focal point of the passing offense.

"We just want to see him continue and progress," O'Brien said. "We think he can be one of the best, we think he is one of the best. We have a lot of confidence in him and we’re looking forward to seeing him progress when the offseason program starts."

In two years with the Texans, Hopkins has reeled in 128 receptions for 2012 yards and eight touchdowns.


Giants won't rush WR Victor Cruz back to the field
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:12 am ET) Although Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is hopeful that wide receiver Victor Cruz will be ready by training camp, the team will not rush him back, reports ESPN.

"I shouldn't say this, because medically I really don't have a definite answer, but by training camp hopefully, even if it's just to bring him," Coughlin said. "We're not going to just throw him to the wind. He'll work his way through. But I hope that would be the target."

Cruz tore his patellar tendon in week six of the 2014 season, causing him to miss the rest of the year. Coughlin is hopeful that he'll return to be the player that he was before the injury.

"I think he'll be the player that he was, and hopefully better," Coughlin said of Cruz. "But as far as when, I would be careful of what I would say there. Hopefully it's the first game. But if it isn't, you know we've done that one before. We just went through it. But I'm hoping it would be."

The former undrafted free agent has tallied 264 receptions for 3,963 yards and 24 touchdowns.


Lions QB Matthew Stafford to take more chances through the air
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was in new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's system for the first time last season. The team plans on taking more chances down the field in Stafford's second season in the new offense, Lombardi said, according to the team's official website.

“In his second year (in the offense) he’s going to be that much more comfortable,” Lombardi said.

“We’ll be able to tailor the offense a little bit more to what he likes and what he’s good at. I thought he played smart football and sometimes to a fault. We’ll look for him to maybe take a few more chances this year with the football.”

Although Stafford didn't take many shots down the field, he did throw a career-low 12 interceptions in 2014. 

The former first overall draft pick has thrown for 21,714 yards with 131 touchdowns and 85 interceptions during his six-year career.


Colts OLB Robert Mathis plans to be ready for training camp
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is not ready to run yet, he told Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL. Mathis added that he plans to be ready for the start of training camp.

“It’s not going as fast as I would like to, but we are getting well and we should be clicking in camp,” Mathis told Sirius.

Mathis was suspended for the first four games of last season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy. He then suffered a torn achilles, forcing him to miss all 16 games of the 2014 season.

During his 11-year career with the Colts, Mathis has collected 487 total tackles, 111.0 sacks, 15 passes defensed and 48 forced fumbles.


Lions TE Eric Ebron has been working out with Matthew Stafford
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said that tight end Eric Ebron has been working out with quarterback Matthew Stafford in Atlanta this offseason, reports the Detroit News. Lombardi also said that the plan is to have Ebron be the No. 3 weapon in the passing game this year.

Ebron, 21, finished his rookie season with 25 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown. 


Cowboys' Tony Romo: DeMarco Murray asked me to take a pay cut
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Eagles running back DeMarco Murray was really hoping to remain with the Cowboys this offseason. So much so, he asked quarterback Tony Romo to take a pay cut to remain with the team, Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, per the Dallas Morning News.

"DeMarco ended up asking me, 'Why don't you take a pay cut?' I said, 'I will. I would take a pay cut to go do this,'" Romo said. "I was like, 'They're going to restructure me.' That's the same thing in some ways, just for the salary cap purposes. He was like, 'OK, now we're back to being friends again.' I would take $5 million less if meant getting him back.

"He knew that. It was just funny how he was literally worried about that part of it for a week. I'm like, 'That's not the reason.' I'm like, 'Obviously I'll restructure. I would even take a pay cut.' He was like, 'OK, we can be friends again.' It's amazing what you think about in those moments."


Giants QB Eli Manning wants to take offense 'to another level'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Giants quarterback Eli Manning is entering the second year in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system. Manning is ready to take the next step now that he is familiar with the system, reports the NY Daily News.

““This year will be a much easier transition, knowing that we have been through so much of it already,” said Manning, who recently had been working out at Ole Miss with some of their receivers and alumni. “It’s definitely a different starting point. I feel good about it. I feel that I have a good understanding of it.

“But there is still room to grow and that is why I try to keep it as fresh in my mind as possible. Looking at old game-plan sheets and calling plays in my head – throwing routes with receivers trying to call out plays to myself, so you don’t let it slip away. It was new last year and it wasn’t something I have been doing for 10 years, so you want to keep it fresh and go through your reminders and all your checks. So when we come back I haven’t taken a step backwards and have to re-learn things. It is still all there. There will be new stuff and we will be taking it to another level.”

Manning has started all 16 games in each season since 2005, throwing for 39,755 yards with 259 touchdowns and 185 interceptions.


Saints TE Josh Hill wants to grow into new role
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) After trading trading Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks, tight end Josh Hill is ready to step into his new role with the Saints, according to the team's offical website.

“I think it might open a few opportunities for me as I continue to grow in my role and just do everything they ask me to do,” Hill said when asked about the trade of Graham to the Seahawks.

Hill recognized that Graham helped him transition from college to the professional level.

“It’s a big difference, especially coming from a smaller school and a smaller city," Hill said. "He was always there for me. We became pretty good friends over the past few years so it will definitely be different without him.”

Head coach Sean Payton believes that Hill is ready to step up.

“Josh Hill is a player that we value a lot," Payton said last week at the NFL annual meeting. "He’s not on anyone’s fantasy first three rounds, I promise you, but he’s a real good tight end. He’s versatile in the running game, in the pass receiving game, a special teams player.”

Hill, heading into his third year in the NFL, has recorded 20 receptions for 220 yards and six touchdowns. 


Cowboys QB Tony Romo excited about this offseason
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is excited about what the offseason holds for him, according to ESPN.

“This is the first offseason where I’ve been able to kind of get after it this early and be able to kind of improve in a lot of different areas that I think you aren’t able to until you get healthy enough to attack it,” Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday. “I’m just excited about that, really.”

Romo, 34, is encouraged by the fact that he is able to do a lot of different things during the offseason process while working out.

“Now I’m able to do that while actually doing functional strength training through different versions of squats,” Romo said. “I’m not putting anything on my back and doing stuff like that but you are doing a lot of single-leg stuff and different things that I started getting into during the season that helped a lot. Now it’s nice to be able to do that in the offseason.”

Romo has thrown for 33,270 yards with 242 touchdowns and 110 interceptions in his 12-year career. 


WR Dwayne Bowe looks to revitalize himself with Browns
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is looking to revitalize his career now that he has joined the Browns, reports ESPN. Bowe was cut by the Chiefs in the middle of March.

"I have a chance to revitalize myself," Bowe, 30, told ESPN.com via telephone Tuesday. "Just sit back and watch."

Browns general manager Ray Farmer has familiarity with Bowe from their time with the Chiefs. The two sat down and watched tape from the 2010 season when he racked up 15 touchdown receptions.

"Him knowing what I can do, seeing me in practice, making crazy plays, splitting the safeties, he knows I still can do that," Bowe said. "I couldn't showcase that last year. He was pulling up old plays, saying, 'We are going to use you just like that.' Moving around, going on motion, trying to hit the deep ball, trying to break plays."

The 30-year-old wideout appreciated his time with the Chiefs and he has no regrets.

"It's been up and down, but it's been fun," Bowe said. "I don't regret nothing. People can talk about the NFL and playing wide receiver -- I feel I still have a good four more years in me."

Over his eight-year career, he has totaled 532 receptions for 7,155 yards and 44 touchdowns.


 
 
 
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