The Cincinnati Bengals have failed to find NFL playoff success for over 26 years. Despite qualifying for the playoffs in five consecutive seasons, the Bengals have not won a postseason game since 1990. The expectation was that 2016 would be the year to bring that streak to an end. However, a rash of injuries to major offensive players and a disappointing defense added up to a 6-9-1 record. Despite the lack of success, the Bengals still have several major fantasy football assets. Here is a recap off the Cincinnati Bengals 2016 fantasy football season. (all statistics from PlayerProfiler.com).
Cincinnati Bengals 2016 Fantasy Football Recap
One of the most polarizing fantasy quarterbacks before the season was Andy Dalton. Many thought his 2015 season was simply an aberration, and the inconsistent tendencies that have plagued Dalton throughout his career would invariably return this year. Others argued his 147.4 Average Draft Position (ADP) was great value and a legitimate target for those that chose to wait on drafting a quarterback.
The skeptics proved correct as Dalton ended the season as just the 19th best fantasy quarterback in points per game (17.0). His passing touchdowns dropped dramatically from 25 (in just 13 games) to 18 (in a full 16 games). Dalton’s passer rating dropped from 106.3 (2nd in the league) in 2015, to 91.8 (23rd in the league) this season. One of the most revealing statistics for a quarterback is Yards Per Attempt, and Dalton’s dropped on average almost a full yard from 8.4 to 7.5 yards per attempt.
Andy Dalton should not be drafted next year except in deep fantasy leagues. After a disappointing season, he is best valued in two quarterback leagues or as a backup on your roster.
Third year running back Jeremy Hill is trending in the wrong direction. His rookie season caught the attention of fantasy owners as he gained over 1,300 total yards and scored nine touchdowns. In that 2014 season, Hill finished as the 10th ranked fantasy running back and seemed to be destined for a long RB1 career. However, since then Hill has underwhelmed, and finished this season with only 839 rushing yards and a paltry 11.8 fantasy points per game (25th at the position). Rumors have swirled that Hill’s role could be greatly diminished in 2017, especially with the emergence of fellow running back Rex Burkhead. This complicates Hill’s value even more, as his Snap Share (percentage of total team running back carries/targets) this season was already only at 46.9 percent. The lack of volume reduces Hill’s production to a very touchdown dependent narrative.
Hill’s primary backfield partner was fourth year running back Giovani Bernard. Bernard suffered a torn ACL at the end the Week 11 game against the Buffalo Bills, which ended an already disappointing season for fantasy owners. His Snap Share of 63.9 percent was much higher than Hill’s, yet his production was worse. Bernard only had three fantasy weeks with 10 or more fantasy points in standard scoring leagues. Even worse? Bernard had four weeks with three fantasy points or less this season. This is a case where the pass catching skill set is not translating into increased fantasy production. Bernard has ranked just 23rd each of the last two seasons in fantasy points per game (11.3 p/g). Combined with his lack of week to week consistency, and Bernard is nothing more than a backup running back for fantasy owners in 2017.
It starts and ends with perennial All-Pro A.J. Green, who had a great season cut short due to a nagging hamstring injury. When he played, Green was fantastic with an average of 18.6 fantasy points per game, which placed him fourth among all fantasy wide receivers. Green only played ten games however, which made him the 34th best receiver on a total fantasy point basis. He has played at least 15 games in four of his six NFL seasons, so the injury should is an anomoly. Green will be a top five fantasy wide receiver next season.
The Bengals have struggled to find a capable second receiving option next to Green for many years. This past season, Brandon LaFell filled that void with a modest 64/862/6 stat line. LaFell only produced five games with over 80 receiving yards, and eight games with under 40 receiving yards. He should not be drafted, and is simply a mid-season waiver pickup during bye weeks.
An intriguing 2017 late round flyer is Tyler Boyd. During his rookie season, Boyd showed flashes of his 2nd round draft pick ability. Boyd’s modest 54 catch 603 receiving yard season was highlighted by a strong 71.4 percent Contested Catch Rate (26th among all wide receivers). With another year under his belt and Green’s return, Boyd is an intriguing late round fantasy pick with huge upside.
The main reason Cincinnati has failed to produce a quality second wide receiver option is the presence of tight end Tyler Eifert. He missed the first six games of the season while recovering from off-season ankle surgery. This unfortunate injury came on the heels of a fantastic 2015 which saw Eifert lead the position with 13 receiving touchdowns. When he finally got on the field this year, Eifert was a solid fantasy contributor. He finished seventh among tight ends with 12.3 fantasy points per game, and received 34.4 percent of all Red Zone passing targets. The Bengals are always a run first team, but Eifert remains one of the most efficient tight ends in the NFL. Despite missing six games, he still ended the year ranked 24th in total fantasy points. Assuming he is healthy to start the 2017 season, Tyler Eifert has a fantasy floor of a top five tight end.
The kicking situation was a disaster, as former Bengals kicker Mike Nugent missed three straight extra points during the season. Nugent had converted a career low 23 of 29 extra points before his release on December 13th. Cincinnati then signed veteran Randy Bullock, who went eight of nine on field goal attempts (long of 44 yards) and nine of ten on extra points. Whoever is the Bengals’ kicker for Week One should not be drafted.
One of the biggest fantasy defensive disappointments this year was the Cincinnati Bengals. They ranked 11th overall in fantasy points in 2015, but fell dramatically to 20th this season. The top reason for the drop was the lack of pass rush, as evidenced by their 22 percent drop in total sacks (42 to 33). The AFC North is a strong division, and without a tough defense the Bengals will struggle next season. Hopefully, Marvin Lewis can restore the pass rush and guide the defense back into the top twelve where they belong.
The Bengals failed to produce strong fantasy production this season, but there are players who should be targeted on draft day. A.J. Green is a top wide receiver, and both Tyler Eifert (mid round) and Tyler Boyd (late round) represent great value. The key will be the Bengals win-loss record. If Cincinnati is challenging for the AFC North title again, there will be many desirable players on draft night. But if the Bengals disappoint again, it will be best to look elsewhere to build your fantasy roster.