Fantasy football draft season is fast approaching. Prep to win your league with SI.com's ongoing preview, including team-by-team breakdowns that examine each club's key fantasy storyline and much more.
Key fantasy storyline
If it weren't for the dynamic exploits of A.J. Green, the Bengals would get lost in the shuffle of fantasy football. Props to head coach Marvin Lewis for lining them up for HBO's Hard Knocks; at least they'll get the national exposure.
Many of the Bengals' players will be under-the-radar fantasy picks to watch this August, including rookie TE Tyler Eifert (a first-round pick this April) and rookie RB Giovani Bernard (second-round pick). Both prospects will grow in the Jay Gruden-coordinated offense alongside QB Andy Dalton and Green, both starting their third NFL season. It should take time for both Eifert and Bernard to truly impact fantasy rosters, but only because veterans Jermaine Gresham and BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be ahead of them on the depth chart to open camp.
Lewis is a defensive-minded coach, and he built his team to play close, tough games against the bruising AFC North -- the Ravens and the Steelers are two of the most physical teams in the NFL. They'll be making a push for a third-consecutive playoff season for the first time in franchise history.
This shapes up to be the strongest and deepest team Lewis has coached in his solid, but not spectacular, 11 seasons in Cincinnati. If everything goes right, you just might find some sleepers here after Green goes off the board in Round 2.
|Cincinnati Bengals' 2013 schedule|
|Including a look at how the Bengals' upcoming foes fared defensively in fantasy last season|
Stats via FFToday.com
The Bengals have six games versus teams ranked top 10 against quarterbacks, and six versus the top 10 teams against running backs. That doesn't bode well for those hoping to draft Dalton or Green-Ellis. Tougher still are the nine top-10 opponents against tight ends that they'll face, making the two-headed monster of Gresham and rookie Eifert questionable fantasy picks before the late rounds. The good news lies in the matchups for receivers, which are a lot more favorable. Green can push Calvin Johnson for the elite, especially against this schedule. Then, you might consider Mohamed Sanu and Andrew Hawkins decent late-round fliers.
QB: Andy Dalton, Josh Johnson, John Skelton
RB: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Giovani Bernard, Bernard Scott, Cedric Peerman
WR: A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, Andrew Hawkins, Brandon Tate
TE: Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert
K: Mike Nugent
|Cincinnati Bengals 2012 defensive rankings|
This is arguably one of the most underrated defenses in football right now, particularly in the front of the 4-3. Geno Atkins is arguably the best defensive tackle in football, while Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson are productive bookends. The Bengals also added James Harrison from the Steelers, who will team with Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict to make the linebacking corps almost as formidable. Dre Kirkpatrick and Leon Hall are underrated corners, while Pacman Jones and Terence Newman still have something left as a the backups. The Bengals just might lead your fantasy league in the amount of IDP picks, even if none of them are truly elite options at this positions. This is a very good defense that finished sixth in the NFL last year and stands to play even better this season.