After posting career highs in passing yards and passing touchdowns with 4,296 and 33 in 2013, while finishing as the 3rd ranked fantasy quarterback, Dalton regressed badly in 2014, throwing for just 3,398 yards and 19 touchdowns. Hue Jackson took over as the team’s offensive coordinator, and the Bengals leaned on their rushing attack more than in recent years, plus key receivers suffered through an injury marred campaign. A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert combined to miss significant time. While we don’t expect the Bengals to alter their run-pass ratio very much in 2015, we do expect Dalton to increase his production. With a healthy Green (three missed games) as well as Jones (16 missed games) and Eifert (15 missed games) back in the lineup, coupled with dynamic pass receiving running back Giovani Bernard and a solid possession receiver in Mohamed Sanu, Dalton has plenty of weapons at his disposal. He rates as a mid to lower tier QB2.
Taken in the 2nd round of last year’s NFL Draft, Hill was expected to play second fiddle to Giovani Bernard in his rookie season, spelling the flashy 2nd year player as well as handling short yardage work. However, a hip injury suffered by Bernard at midseason opened up an opportunity for the LSU product, and he took advantage of it in a big way, finishing the season with 1,124 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns and 215 receiving yards. At 6’1” and 235 pounds, Hill used his size well during his rookie season, establishing himself as a north-south runner capable of producing the occasional big play, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. With Bernard struggling as a runner (career yards per carry of 4.1), Hill figures to handle rushing down duties for the Bengals other than when offensive coordinator Hue Jackson feels he needs a breather. Since we expect the Bengals offense to rate in the league’s top 10 in 2015, we consider Hill a lower tier RB1 in redraft formats as well as an outstanding dynasty league prospect.
After accumulating 1,209 total yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie in 2013, Bernard was touted as a potential breakout candidate in 2014. However, that proved to be optimistic as fantasy pundits failed to place enough emphasis on the 14.1 touches per game he averaged as a rookie as well as the role that rookie 2nd round pick Jeremy Hill would play. Sure enough, Bernard opened the season in the lead role before suffering a hip injury that caused him to miss three games while also creating an opportunity for Hill to emerge as the team’s starting running back. While Bernard’s production on a per game basis was very similar to his rookie season, he is firmly entrenched as Hill’s backup. With Bernard operating as a change of pace, receiving option out of the backfield, we still expect him to average between 12-15 touches per game which should allow to produce as a lower tier RB2, albeit one who may produce on an inconsistent basis.
After amassing an impressive 3,833 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns during his first three years in the league, Green suffered through the worst year of his career in 2014, catching 69 passes for 1,041 yards with six touchdowns. A toe injury caused him to miss three games and he was limited in several others. With a return to health in 2015, we expect Green to return to the production he displayed in 2013. While the fantasy crowd seems to be discounting Green somewhat due to his lack of production last season, the Bengals increased reliance on the running game and the emergence of Mohamed Sanu and the return to health of Marvin Jones and tight end Tyler Eifert, we aren’t buying that narrative. The big dog needs to be fed and there is no doubt that Green is the big dog in the Bengals passing attack. We rate him as a top five fantasy wide receiver and see another 1,300 yard, touchdown season on the horizon.
After producing a breakout season in 2013 with 51 receptions for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns, Jones’ 2014 was lost to injury as he missed the entire season with ankle problems. Entering his 4th year in the league, Jones has breakout potential provided he can shake off the rust and build on the progress he displayed two seasons ago. With Jones back in the lineup, we expect the Bengals to throw the ball more often as their group of receivers suffered through an injury-plagued 2014 season. However, with Mohamed Sanu having established himself in 2013 and the Bengals anxious to see what tight end Tyler Eifert can do as he also returns from injury, Jones rates as a WR5 until he strings together a couple of productive weeks.
With A.J. Green missing time with a toe injury and Marvin Jones out for the entire 2014 season, Sanu posted career highs across the board with 56 receptions for 790 yards and five touchdowns. He will battle Jones for a spot in the starting lineup in 2015, but the smart money is on Jones. While Sanu posted a surprising 14.1 yards per reception, that was an outlier that belies his lack of speed. He averaged under 10 yards per reception during his first two years in the league. Since we don’t expect that Sanu will usurp Jones for a spot in the starting lineup and tight end Tyler Eifert will likely eat into Sanu’s role on short and intermediate routes, look for Sanu to struggle to match his 2014 production. We don’t recommend him in any format. A regression to 400-500 yards with 3-4 touchdowns seems likely.
Unreliable and wildly inconsistent during his first four years in the league with the Oakland Raiders, Denarius Moore brings his outstanding speed to the Bengals in 2015. While Moore’s career arc is clearly pointing down, he rates as a player to keep on the back burner given that Marvin Jones is returning from injury and Mohamed Sanu rates as a poor option to play alongside A.J. Green. If Jones doesn’t return to form and Moore works his way into the starting lineup, he could produce the odd big week and be worthy of a roster spot in deeper leagues.
Coming off a productive rookie season in which he caught 39 passes for 445 yards and a pair of touchdowns after being taken in the 1st round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Eifert was expected to take another step forward in his 2nd season and relegate Jermaine Gresham to more of a backup role. However, a dislocated elbow ended his season after just one game, putting his breakout hopes on hold. With Gresham not back for 2015, Eifert once again rates as a potential breakout player but he has some roadblocks in his way. Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu emerged as a solid receiving option in 2014, Marvin Jones returns from injury and running back Giovani Bernard has averaged 50 receptions per year during his two seasons in the league. While we expect the Bengals to throw the ball more in 2015, Eifert remains a low end TE2 in redraft formats and a good but not great prospect in dynasty leagues.