For the record: Cincinnati Bengals

The narrative:

I just spent 72 hours thinking about the Cincinnati Bengals. Here’s what I realized. (1) I’m glad I’m not a Bengals fan (2) there are hardly any narratives here, except (3) a lot of people think Joe Mixon is going to rise to fantasy stardom and (4) not me.

To that end, here are my pros and cons of Joe Mixon:

The pros of Joe:

-He’s a talented player who some have compared to Leveon Bell, with a year of experience under his belt.

-He is only 21 years old.

-He has an obvious stranglehold on early down work.

-Last season Mixon managed 626 rushing yards and 287 receiving yards, while essentially splitting the backfield with Gio Bernard, and a sprinkling of Jeremy Hill.

-The team traded for LT Cordy Glenn and drafted C Billy Price, bolstering their poor offensive line.

-Bill Lazor will have a full offseason to install his system.

The cons of Joe:

-Offensive line improvements aside, the right side of the line has two major question marks, Price will play Center as a rookie, while Glenn will be starting anew. The group will have little to no chemistry.

-Gio Bernard, who outperformed Mixon in 2017, is still on the team, is only 26 years old, is signed through 2019 and will be a contributor on passing downs, as well as some early down work. (Sidebar, I feel for Gio. This feels like DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart 2.0. The talented incumbent is never given a true chance at the solo gig as his lesser size and skill set are overshadowed by the larger, prototypical back).

-Even if the Bengals opt to release Gio next season to save some money, Mark Walton was drafted in the fourth round. He too will take touches from Mixon. So Leveon Bell comparisons aside, it seems unlikely Mixon will ever be a true Bellcow.

-Gamescripts are difficult to project, but I’m fairly confident the Bengals won’t be running out many clocks. Mixon will get his fair share but the passing down backs will pull their share of fantasy points away.

– Con, Mixon has a disturbing history, having been accused of punching a woman, knocking her unconscious and breaking several bones in her face. This is not the sort of person I want to root for. Punching a woman in the face isn’t a mistake, it’s proof positive that you’re a sack of crap. I will be surprised if he doesn’t find his way to more trouble.

Now let’s suspend my personal opinion/common decency and suggest he warrants a second chance. Marvin Lewis has an unconvincing record of rehabilitating troubled souls. He is certainly deserving of respect having navigated this team to many non-playoff successes. Regular season records aside though, discipline is not one of his hallmarks. His players seem to act as though there’s a substitute teacher in charge of the classroom. That’s not an ideal environment for the 21-year old Mixon to right the ship.

The offense:

Mixon will certainly get his fair share of touches in this offense, but just what that offense will be is difficult to say. AJ Green, coming off a disappointing season by his standards, will continue to be the only obvious cover on the team. The rest of the receiving corps is a collection of “just a guy” type route runners and deep threats. Tyler Eifert will attempt to come back from his buffet of ailments, but the last update on the tight end suggested he remained Andrew-Luck-like limited. Back injuries are tricky things, and often the type of injuries that have players on the sidelines considering retirement earlier than most.

So, back to Mixon. The hype is loud, having read through the scouts’ and analysts’ takes, I have no doubt it is there. I do question whether or not the Bengals can manage to provide Mixon with an environment in which he can make good on his second chance. Keep in mind, last year’s offense was patched together after the team fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese after two games (and 9 points). From there Lazor and company attempted to put in their system, mid-stream. A difficult thing to do, having missed the opportunity to do so in the offseason. At least that is the excuse that is being used for the misery of 2017.

This year, no such excuse will be available. Given the right side of the line is in flux, the lack of depth at receiver and the questions surrounding Eifert, it is hard to imagine how Lazor’s reportedly aggressive offense can have any claws.

Last season the Bengals and Marvin Lewis came very close to parting ways. This season may be Marv’s swan song.

In summary:

I’m not buying any Bengals at ADP this season. I have found myself nervously drafting Tyler Eifert (14th TE on draft with a 118.5 ADP) in best ball, but only when taking a total of three tight ends. I also have picked up shares of Mixon, who is surprisingly not expensively priced on Draft (yet). In redraft and dynasty, I’m willing to sit out on Mixon.

AJ Green is currently ranked as the 7th receiver (21.9) ADP and I’d much rather take a running back at that spot and hope to catch Devante Adams (28.2), Doug Baldwin (35.8) or Stefon Diggs (42.3) with my next pick.

I would happily own him in Dynasty but doubt he can be had on the cheap. His name recognition and price remain high. Taking that into consideration, I’d likely test the trade market as see what I could get while he was still on the right side of 30.

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