The Bengals were the laughing stock of the NFL before coach Marvin Lewis arrived. Now, well, they are perfectly average. During Lewis' five-year run, Cincinnati has finished 8-8 three times, and 7-9 once. Though the Bengals have never been able to sustain the success they had in 2005 by finishing 11-5, the talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball, has always been there.
And it still is. In fantasy football terms, few teams are as loaded as the Bengals. Their offense features three fantasy studs, and one fallen running back looking to redeem himself. When Carson Palmer and crew air it out, fantasy owners will reap the benefits.
2007 stats: 4,131 yards, 26 TD, 20 INT
Palmer is the leader of Cincinnati's air show, though he failed last season to live up to lofty expectations. Palmer is widely considered the NFL's third best quarterback, and I think we all know who the two best are, but he seemed to regress last season as the Bengals suffered their first losing season ever under his watch. Still, Palmer is going to throw for a ton of yards and a ton of touchdowns this season, as he always does. Last year's high interception totals were troubling, but it would be surprising if they didn't go down this year. Palmer is still a top five quarterback, maybe even still number three, and will be taken in the first five rounds of most drafts.
2007 stats: 497 rushing yards, 110 receiving yards, 4 total TD
Notable backup: Kenny Watson
Johnson was one of the biggest busts in the fantasy world last season. He pulled a hamstring in Week 3 and couldn't live up to his lofty draft status after that. Though Kenny Watson did a fine job in his absence, scoring seven touchdowns, Johnson should get his job back this season. But consider the man named Rudi to be a sleeper this season. Only three touchdowns and a 2.9 yards per carry average last season means he won't be taken in the first three rounds. But if he's available around rounds 5-7, Johnson might be worth taking a chance on.
2007 stats: 93 recs, 1,440 yards, 8 TD
You wouldn't know it judging by the way he talked this offseason, but Johnson is coming off the best season of his career. As Terrell Owens has recently proved to us, receivers can still be awesome into their thirties, so no one should expect a regression from Johnson now that he's hit the magic number. Johnson is one of fantasy's elite receivers and should be taken in the first four rounds. He's a virtual lock for 90ish catches, around 1,200 yards, and over eight touchdowns.
2007 stats: 112 recs, 1,143 yards, 12 TD
TJ, yeah let's just go with TJ, broke out in a big way last season, setting career highs in every major category. He should probably be drafted after Johnson, but he may actually be a safer selection. TJ didn't whine in the offseason about a new contract, and you know he'll play every down. Like Johnson, TJ will likely be taken in the first five or six rounds of most drafts.
2007 stats: 20 recs, 211 yards, 0 TD
Though Cincinnati loves to air it out, the tight end isn't involved. Kelly has never done much damage in his nine year career, catching over 21 passes just once, so he shouldn't be a tight end anyone considers on draft day.
2007 stats: 22 sacks, 19 interceptions, 24.1 ppg allowed
The Bengals downfall has always been their defense, and it was yet again last season. The group simply gives up too many points and doesn't get enough sacks to be considered on draft day.