• Inside the Locker Room
With Kevin Goheen, Freelance Writer
What does the new offensive system do to Cedric Benson’s value? Does Bernard Scott have a bigger role under coach Jay Gruden?
With the expected inexperience at quarterback, the Bengals will be relying on their run game more than one might think with a West Coast offense. Benson has been a workhorse since being signed midway through the 2008 season and could again be a 300-carry back. More important, without Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens on the roster, the Bengals will be looking for a veteran presence to get the ball in the end zone. For Scott to become more of a presence in the offense, he’s going to have to earn his playing time as the third down back. That’s got to include improving in pass protection. He’s a good change-of-pace back, but if he can’t block, he won’t be out on the field with any increased regularity.
Which young pass-catcher will have a breakout season in 2011 — Jordan Shipley, A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham or Jerome Simpson?
Who’s a quarterback’s best friend? The tight end, of course. Gresham got better as last season progressed, and his meager 9.1 yards-per-catch average should take a big jump. So should the four touchdown catches he had as a rookie. He’s an every-down player; he blocks in the run game and is capable of splitting out wide in the pass game. He is multi-dimensional and should cause plenty of matchup problems for opposing defensive coordinators. If he stays healthy — he did miss the final game of 2010 with a knee strain — expect big things from Gresham.
Will Andy Dalton be a viable fantasy option by the end of the season?
By the end of the season, Dalton could provide some surprise points but as far as being a viable option, that’s a wait-and-see. He’ll certainly have plenty of weapons at his disposal but rookie QBs are rookie QBs; they are apt to make mistakes, and coaches are apt to pull in the reins on them.
• Fantasy Playoff Run — Weeks 14-16: HOU, @STL, ARI
Even if a small child is under center for the Bengals for the three fantasy playoff weeks, they should have success. Cincinnati draws the Texans (13th vs. the run, 32nd vs the pass in 2010), St. Louis (17th vs. the run, 19th vs. the pass) and Arizona (30th vs. the run and 23rd vs. the pass).
• Athlon Best Bets
Sleeper: Jermaine Gresham, TE
Deep-Sleeper: Bruce Gradkowski, QB
Overvalued: Cedric Benson, RB
Top Rookie: A.J. Green, WR
Bounce-Back: Bernard Scott, RB
Top IDP: Carlos Dunlap, DL
• Try to Avoid
Cincinnati went from the 12th-rated fantasy defense to the 27th in one year. The Bengals registered zero kick return TDs, tied for 27th in sacks and then used their top two picks at WR and QB.
WAIT UNTIL: Never
• Draft Class Fantasy Impact
Dalton could be thrown into the fire right away (Bruce Gradkowski is in camp on a two-year deal as well), but he is a good fit for Cincinnati’s new offense. Dalton is not worth owning in redraft leagues but deserves consideration in keeper formats. Green should emerge as Cincinnati’s new go-to option, but the lockout hurts his value for 2011.
More Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets and Rankings:
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 280
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 240 w/ IDPs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defense/Special Teams