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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
Marcus Lattimore eager to start pro career
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4/20/2014) 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore is ready to start his proffesional career. After blowing out his knee in a gruesome injury in October of 2012 at South Carolina, Lattimore told The State on Sunday that his knee rehab is complete and that he's "ready to play."

Lattimore, who will attend the first day of the team's offseason workouts, will enter a crowded backfield with Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James already backing up current starter Frank Gore. However, James has expressed his desire for a bigger role and could be dealt, opening the door for the No. 3 spot in the backfield.

"If that happens, it does put me in that No. 3 spot," Lattimore said. "But I've just got to go in there and work hard. I can pass-protect and run the ball. I've got to show that."


Raiders bring back Kaelin Burnett
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Raiders have inked exclusive-rights free agent Kaelin Burnett to a one-year deal. He's expected to compete for a roster spot in training camp. 

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(4/18/2014) In the wake of the release of veteran linebacker Russell Allen, the Jaguars are expected to make Dekoda Watson their new starting strong-side linebacker, ESPN reports. He'll also play as a pass rusher and potentially line up as a defensive end on third downs. 

Watson had 42 total tackles, two sacks, an interception, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a blocked punt with the Bucs last year. 


Brandon Gibson begins light jogging
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Brandon Gibson has begun light jogging as he works his way back from a torn patellar tendon, the Miami Herald reports. The Dolphins are expected to keep him on the roster, if only because of the cap hit he'll cost, per the report. He said recently he expects to be ready for Week 1. 

'Humbled' Richardson explains 2013, promises a better 2014
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Colts running back Trent Richardson spoke openly about his disappointing 2013 season, saying that it took him too long to learn a new playbook and get over leaving Cleveland after Week 2. Richardson also told the official team website that he's planning to do everything within his power to be as prepared as possible for 2014. 

"Y'all will see a big significant difference in the way I play, the speed. I won't have to think about a lot of stuff," Richardson said earlier this offseason. "It's going to be big -- timing with the offensive line, timing with Andrew (Luck), just knowing a lot more with the program, the whole system.

"They haven't seen everything they're going to get out of me yet. A lot of it is going to come next year. A lot of it is going to come in the offseason. I'm going to put in a lot of work, as I've been doing this whole season. This season humbled me. ... This season was a lesson to me."

Colts coach Chuck Pagano has had Richardson's back, says the running back, and the coach stressed back in March that his running back's involvement in the offseason program will be key. 

"It's going to be very, very important for (Richardson) to be here for the offseason program and to dive into this thing full steam ahead, which he will," Pagano said. "He wants to be great. He's got all the talent. He's got all the ability. We would have never done what we did if we didn't believe that deep down in our core. So we look for him to have a great offseason and to have a great 2014 campaign."


Saints bring back Robert Meachem
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Saints announced Friday that the club has re-signed veteran free agent wide receiver Robert Meachem to a one-year contract.

Meachem is a seven-year NFL veteran who was originally the club's first round draft pick (27th overall) in 2007. He re-signed with the Saints prior to the start of the 2013 regular season and appeared in 15 games with five starts. He finished with 16 receptions for 324 yards with two touchdowns.

Meachem said signing with the Saints now should help with his preparations as he will be able to take part in the team's offseason conditioning program, OTAs and mini-camp. Plus, "this is home," he said.


Can Chris Johnson turn into Tomlinson?
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(4/18/2014) The Jets are hoping running back Chris Johnson can do for them what LaDainian Tomlinson did in 2010, reports ESPN.

That season, Tomlinson came from San Diego to New York after he was released. He responded with a team-high 914 yards with six touchdowns on 219 carries and caught 52 passes. He was supposed to be Shonn Greene's backup, but Tomlinson was so impressive that he won the starting job and became an integral part of a team that came within one game of the Super Bowl.

Maybe Johnson, who was let go by the Titans, can do the same thing.

"I can turn the bad things people are saying into a good thing for me, to give me motivation, to keep me hungry and to keep a chip on my shoulder and prove the naysayers wrong," he said Thursday.

Johnson had a disappointing year in 2013 when he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, but he played 13 games on a torn meniscus and was running behind a suspect offensive line for a team that didn't have its starting quarterback for half the season. The situation in New York should be improved, and hopefully being teamed with Chris Ivory will allow him to play like Tomlinson did in 2010.


Aikman worried about Tony Romo
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Former Cowboys quarterback and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman is worried about current Dallas quarterback Tony Romo coming off back surgery, reports the team's official website.

Romo, 34, is coming off back surgery in December, which was the second procedure on his back in a year.

"I came back in a relatively short period of time because of when I had my surgery, so he's at least afforded more time to get ready," Aikman said. "But having said that, two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned.

"I'm hopeful that he's able to come back -- everybody is. This team won't be the same if he's not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, 'Hey, he's ahead of schedule and everything's going fine,' I'm not sure how you can really measure that here in April."


Bengals, A.J. Green not talking extension - yet
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(4/18/2014) The Bengals are expected to exercise the fifth-year option on receiver A.J. Green's contract by May 3, reports Pro Football Talk. But the sides have yet to discuss a long-term contract extension, according to the report.

The Bengals hold the rights to Green through the 2015 season. And in 2016, if a long-term deal hasn't been signed yet, the Bengals can use the franchise tag on Green for that season.

The report says Green can force the issue by trying to boycott offseason workouts or hold out from training camp. But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is confident Green will be there.


Chris Snee will give it a shot this spring
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Giants guard Chris Snee will attempt to go through the Giants offseason program once he's healthy, the New York Daily News reports. Snee had hip surgery last season and an elbow surgery earlier this year. There is no timeline for him to be at 100 percent but he is expected to be on the field for the "bulk" of offseason activities. 

 
 
 
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