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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
Eagles coach Chip Kelly: Mark Sanchez is our quarterback Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:32 am ET) Eagles coach Chip Kelly said on Sportsradio 94WIP in Philadelphia that he'll start Mark Sanchez against the Giants in Week 17, per Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.

Sanchez has been picked off 10 times since taking over as the starter in Week 9. He threw a costly interception at the end of Saturday's 27-24 defeat to Washington that ruined Philadelphia's postseason hopes. The Eagles won't rush Nick Foles back from a collarbone injury now that Philadelphia was officially eliminated following Dallas' win over Indianapolis on Sunday.

"Mark's our quarterback, and I thought Mark played a really good game [Saturday]," Kelly said. "He goes 37 of 50, he was 36 of 49 before that last pass.

"I'm sure he wants that pass back, everybody wants that pass back, but I think Mark played a good game and we'll continue to go with Mark."

Philadelphia is a 4-point favorite at N.Y. Giants.


Report: Cardinals won't release WR Fitzgerald
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:21 am ET) Cardinals Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will not be cut, as some expect due to the team's salary cap issues, a source has told Pro Football Talk.

Fitzgerald has a cap number of $23.6 million for 2015. He could be traded or have his deal restructured. He could also decide to negotiate an extension.

Few non-quarterbacks have cap numbers anywhere near $20 million. Committing that much to a fading Fitzgerald, who hasn't totaled more than 34 yards receiving in his last four games, could prove disastrous. But the Cardinals are apparently willing to take that chance.

Fitzgerald has also been victimized this year and in recent seasons by inconsistent quarterback play.


Lions RB Joique Bell was benched for 'violation of team rules'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:12 am ET) Lions coach Jim Caldwell told reporters that running back Joique Bell was suspended for the first quarter of Sunday's 20-14 victory over Chicago for what he deemed "violation of team rules," reports ESPN.

Bell took a backseat to Reggie Bush early on before emerging late in the second half. After logging only three carries in the first half, Bell finished the game with 74 yards on 13 attempts and a 17-yard score midway through the fourth quarter that gave Detroit the lead to stay. 

Detroit is a 7 1/2-point underdog at Green Bay in Week 17. The Lions have a 22-game losing streak at Lambeau Field, an NFL record for most consecutive road losses against a single opponent. The winner will clinch the NFC North title.


Bears K Robbie Gould shuts down for season finale
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:03 am ET) Bears kicker Robbie Gould told WSCR 670 AM radio in Chicago he'll sit out the final game of the season because of a nagging right quadriceps injury, reports the Chicago Tribune. Gould converted 9 of 12 field goal attempts, adding 28 extra points. Jay Feely will take over as the starter for the fourth consecutive game.

Report: NFL will review Dominic Raiola's ankle stomp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:51 am ET) The NFL will review Lions center Dominic Raiola's action during the third quarter of Detroit's 20-14 victory over Chicago, according to ESPN.

After walking away from a pile, Raiola was caught on camera stepping on Chicago defensive lineman Ego Ferguson's ankle. Following the game, he told reporters his actions were "not intentional."

"It was totally unintentional," Raiola said. "I remember I was stumbling out. I didn't see the end of it. I apologized at the end of the game, told him it was unintentional and we shook hands and that was it."

Raiola got slapped with a $10,000 fine for cut block in the final minute of a Week 12 loss to New England and could be in line for a heftier fine this time around. The league will likely make an announcement before Detroit's Week 17 showdown at Green Bay.


Browns' Johnny Manziel: 'I want to be the guy' next season
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:03 am ET) Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel could be in danger of missing Sunday's season finale against Baltimore, reports Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.

Manziel completed 3 of 8 passes for 32 yards before exiting the second quarter of Sunday's 17-13 loss to the Panthers with a hamstring injury. Following the game, Manziel began making a case for the starting job next season during the postgame press conference.

"I want to be the guy," Manziel said. "That's what I want to do and that's what I want to be for this organization, so for me, if anything, this has motivated me more to head into this offseason."

Manziel has only led his team to two scoring drives out of 15 tries this season. Coach Mike Pettine will likely reveal the severity of his injury on Monday. If Manziel is unable to play, Brian Hoyer will get the start against the Ravens.

Cleveland is currently a 7-point underdog at Baltimore.


Falcons S William Moore slated for MRI on injured shoulder
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:44 am ET) Falcons safety William Moore will undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of his injured shoulder, reports ESPN. Moore separated his shoulder in Week 4 and appear to have aggravated the injury after playing 41 snaps against New Orleans on Sunday.

At this point his status remains uncertain for the regular-season finale against Carolina. Atlanta is currently a 3 1/2-point home favorite against Carolina, according to Vegas Insider. The winner will advance to the postseason.


Report: Quad injury won't keep Falcons' Steven Jackson out Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:21 am ET) The quad injury Falcons running back Steven Jackson suffered in Sunday's 30-14 victory over the Saints in Week 16 is not believed to be serious, reports Vaughn McClure of ESPN.

Jackson left the game in the second quarter and was ruled out early in the third. He finished with four carries for 9 yards and one catch for 14 yards. Although coach Mike Smith didn't share many details on Jackson's injury, McClure reports that the veteran back will return to the starting lineup come Week 17 against Carolina.

Atlanta is currently a 3 1/2-point home favorite against Carolina, according to Vegas Insider. The winner will advance to the postseason.


QB struggles begin to impact Cardinals DST
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:13 am ET) The Cardinals DST scored just one Fantasy point in standard CBSSports.com leagues Week 16 against Seattle, interrupting a stretch of 10 games in which it averaged 15.1, and the Cardinals' offensive woes may have had something to do with it.

Specifically, they've been unable to find a decent quarterback since losing Carson Palmer to injury in Week 10. Backup Drew Stanton at least mounted some kind of threat, but with him sidelined by a sprained knee in Week 16, the Cardinals had to turn to third-stringer Ryan Lindley. He turned the ball over twice without once leading his team into the end zone, completing less than half of his passes in the process.

The quick trips back to the sideline gave the Seahawks more chances to pile up points and yards, and they did, finishing with 35 and 596. Only one other time have the Cardinals allowed more than 30 points in a game, and the 596 yards were a season high. Worse yet, they were lacking in big plays, recording one sack with no takeaways.

Fortunately, the Cardinals will take on a struggling 49ers offense in Week 17, so even if Lindley is back under center, the DST at least has a chance of a respectable performance. Still, if you've been relying on it all season, you might want to make sure there isn't an appealing matchups play on the waiver wire.


Seahawks DST can't be stopped
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:04 am ET) The Seahawks DST had another dominant performance Week 16 at Arizona, continuing a nine-week run that has made it once again arguably the top unit in Fantasy. During that stretch, it has averaged 16.2 Fantasy points, allowing 11.9 points on 231.3 yards.

It allowed only six points on 216 yards in Week 16, recording four sacks and one interception. Of the Seahawks' 33 sacks this season, 20 have come in their last five games.

Clearly, they had a favorable matchup in this one, but they also shut down the Eagles in Week 14. You don't have any reason to shy away from the Seahawks DST against St. Louis in Week 17.


 
 
 
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