Fantasy Outlook: 2009 Bengals
Prior to last season the Bengals were a hotbed for fantasy owners to pluck for talent on draft day.
Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Rudi Johnson were all elite performers that could be counted on for big-time production.
Palmer went down with a season-ending injury and the tank went empty on Johnson out of the backfield, leaving the Bengals with a mediocre unit.
Palmer is healthy. New players have entered the mix.
Let’s take a look at what players can and can not be counted for fantasy owners in 2009.
RB Cedric Benson
Benson made the most of the opportunity the Bengals gave him, taking over for Chris Perry as the team’s starter as he finished with a career-high 747 yards.
With starting quarterback Carson Palmer sidelined with an injury opponents frequently stacked the box, making rushing yards hard to come by for the Bengals in ‘08.
The team’s offensive line got a nice makeover and with Palmer now healthy, it should make the Bengals’ running game overall a bit more productive.
Benson has little competition for carries in the Cincinnati backfield and the team has emphasized all off-season that running the football is going to be a priority.
The team traded for former Ram Brian Leonard, who has shined in limited action before. He brings versatility to the mix and could eat in Benson's carries a bit.
Veteran Kenny Watson will join rookie Bernard Scott and second-year running back James Jackson for a roster spot.
With so many teams going with two-back systems, Benson could finish amongst the top backs in the leagues in carries and that should spell success.
He should be a safe bet for his first 1,000-yard season and could approach double-digit touchdowns.
With so many question marks surrounding the Bengals entering the season, play it safe and look at Benson as a low-end No. 2 RB that could easily exceed expectations.
QB Carson Palmer
After posting back-to-back 4,000 yard seasons and throwing for 66 touchdowns in three previous years, Palmer was limited by injuries to four games in 2008.
Palmer has been impressive in recent OTA workouts and appears to be at 100%.
The loss of top receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and question marks on the offensive line are a minor concern, but the shoulder doesn’t appear to be.
Palmer can no longer be considered an elite fantasy quarterback, but he easily still has the potential to be a top-five performer at the position.
Don’t hesitate to grab him in the mid-rounds in the draft after the big names have gone. He is still a solid option as a No. 1 QB, assuming he stays healthy.
Expect Palmer to finish with somewhere around 25 touchdowns and between 3,600 and 3,800 yards passing.
WR Chad Ochocinco
Once one of the league’s elite receivers, Ocho Cinco looks nothing like the guy fantasy owners use to know as Chad Johnson.
Limited by a bad ankle and an injured shoulder in 2008, Ocho Cinco mustered the lowest totals since his rookie season, 53 receptions for 540 and four touchdowns.
He was a no-show at the team’s voluntary off-season workouts and has made it clear over the past two seasons that he wants out of Cincinnati.
After averaging 92 catches and 1,374 yards per season over a five-year span prior to last season, it’s tough to completely disregard Ocho Cinco.
Don’t go after him too early, but if you can do much worse as a No. 2 fantasy wideout heading into this season.
WR Laveranues Coles
As a Bengal, Coles will benefit from playing with the best quarterback he has ever had the opportunity to play with, Carson Palmer.
Fantasy owners shouldn’t expect him to produce T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s impressive numbers, but Coles will continue to be a reliable fantasy option on his new team.
A model of consistency during his nine-year career, Coles is one of the league’s most durable wideouts.
Playing with a new team and in a new system is always a challenge and that should temper your expectations.
Count on Coles as being a solid No. 3 WR option, with even more upside in point-per-reception formats.
If you can secure him between the eighth and tenth round he will not disappoint.
WR Chris Henry
Henry has made more of a name for himself with his off-the-field antics than his on-the-field performances and that will cause many owners to disregard his talent.
He has made quite an impression on his teammates this off-season though, and the team is hoping that they can get about 60-70 snaps out of him per game this season.
The potential is there for Henry to have a breakout season and to be the team’s top producer at the position.
He is the ultimate low-risk, high-reward player. He is likely to fall to the later rounds on draft day, and justifiably so. However, few players left on the board at that point will have his potential.
TE Chase Coffman
The rookie made a name for himself at Missouri and was regarded as one of the nation’s top receiving tight ends as a senior.
The foot injury that caused him to slip to the Bengals’ on Day 2 of the draft could also limit his action early in the summer.
He is the perfect fit in the offense and should emerge as red-zone option for Carson Palmer at some point this season.
Veteran Ben Utecht is a hurdle though, making it unclear how much playing time Coffman will get out of the gate.
He’s probably best left for the waiver wire, but in deeper leagues where two tight ends are required and in keeper formats Coffman is a diamond in the rough.
PK Shayne Graham
Like so many other parts of the Bengals’ offense in 2008, Graham’s scoring production was down.
His 24 field goal attempts last year were the lowest amount during his six-year tenure in Cincinnati.
The Bengals’ offense will be improved with Carson Palmer back and healthy and that should translate into an increase in the chances Graham gets to points on the board.
Graham is one of the league’s most accurate kickers, but isn’t known to have the long-range ability that produces the bonus points owners covet.
He still has the ability to be a decent fantasy kicker, but he’s not worth drafting until the very end of the draft. Otherwise, just wait and take him off the waiver wire when he gets hot.
The Bengals defense had moments last season where they proved useful for fantasy owners, but consistency was a problem.
The team did put some new tools in place this off-season that should translate into improved production.
A lack of a homerun-hitter as a return man makes them a less sexy option from a special teams’ perspective though.
If the newcomers can make an impact, the Bengals’ defense could prove to be a borderline starting option at some point this season.
Draft them only if you carry two defenses.