Shark Bites

Bengals RB Gio Bernard (knee) is expected to be a limited participant in OTAs this week, according to ESPN's Katherine Terrell. The fact that Bernard is out there at all just 6 months after tearing his ACL is encouraging. He'll be nearly 10 months removed when the 2017 season kicks off. Bernard appears to be on track to be on the field come Week 1. The bigger issue is where his touches will come from in a backfield that now includes Jeremy Hill and rookie Joe Mixon.

The Bengals plan to play rookie Carl Lawsons at strong-side LB half the time and pass rusher "most likely on the edge" the other half, DC Paul Guenther told the team website this week. The 4th-round pick could push for immediate playing time in that role. Cincinnati sports a crowd of options at LB, but former MLB starter Rey Maualuga is gone. So is 2016 OLB starter Karlos Dansby. The rush role will help Lawson's IDP upside and makes him an interesting late flier for dynasty rookie drafts.

Bengals WR John Ross (shoulder) won't be cleared in time for June minicamp, HC Marvin Lewis said. Ross is recovering from post-Combine surgery to repair a torn labrum. It doesn't sound like he's in any danger of missing the start of the season, but any missed practice time is notable for a rookie. It's something to file away when considering Ross' 2017 redraft value.

The Bengals spent a 6th-round pick Saturday on RB Brandon Wilson. The former Houston Cougar arrives as an intriguing athletic prospect short on backfield experience. Wilson wowed observers at his pro day with a 4.36-second 40 time, a 41-inch vertical and an 11'1 broad jump. In 2015, he was the only player in the nation to score multiple TDs on offense, defense and special teams, while seeing time at RB, DB and kick returner. We'll see where/if he fits in for the Bengals, who have Jeremy Hill heading into a contract year, Gio Bernard returning from injury and Joe Mixon toting off-field concerns.

Update: Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Bengals say Wilson will "compete for playing time at nickel, safety and on kick return." So he'll play DB, not RB.

The Bengals nabbed Tennessee WR Josh Malone in the 4th round of the draft. The former 5-star recruit was quiet in his first 2 college seasons but broke out last year with a 50-972-11 line. Malone clocked a 4.40-second 40-yard dash at 6’3, 208 pounds, although he struggled in the other drills at the Combine. Still, the tape shows a guy who could at least develop into a dangerous deep threat at the next level. Malone joins a suddenly young and deep Bengals WR corps that includes A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd and fellow rookie John Ross.

The Bengals picked up Kansas State DE Jordan Willis in Round 3 of the NFL Draft. Willis tallied 20 sacks and 31.5 total tackles for loss over the past 2 seasons and then crushed the Scouting Combine. Willis ranked 93rd percentile or better in the 3-cone drill, broad jump, vertical and 40-yard dash at 6'4 and 255 pounds. Willis might be blocked initially by Michael Johnson but should work into the rotation right away and might battle for Johnson's job before the end of his rookie year. Willis looks very intriguing for IDP dynasty rookie drafts.

The Bengals rolled the dice on Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon with the 48th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. Mixon’s off-field transgression — he punched a woman in 2014 — caused him to drop in the draft and will continue to haunt him as a pro. But on the field, this is a 1st-round talent. Perhaps the best RB in the class. Mixon shows good patience, power and burst as a runner. And he’s a big-time weapon in the passing game. He exploded for 1,274 rushing yards on just 187 carries this past year and averaged a robust 6.8 yards per carry across 2 college seasons. Mixon added 65 total receptions for 894 yards (13.8 yards per catch) and 9 TDs. And he doesn’t turn 21 until July. Mixon joins a crowded backfield in Cincinnati alongside Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. But Hill has disappointed since his rookie season, while Bernard is rehabbing from his 2nd torn ACL. Mixon certainly has a shot — and might be the favorite — to lead the 2017 backfield in touches.

The Bengals nabbed Washington WR John Ross with the 9th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. Ross was consistently the fastest player on the field during his breakout 1,150-yard, 17-TD 2016 campaign. He backed that up with a Combine-record 4.22-second 40 time. That speed should immediately translate to the next level. Ross also flashed the ability to beat press coverage and was dangerous after the catch at Washington. He goes just 5’11 and 188 pounds, though, and comes with a lengthy injury history. Ross played through a torn right MCL and meniscus in 2014, missed all of 2015 with a torn left ACL and meniscus and played through a torn labrum in his shoulder this past season. It’s certainly fair to wonder how his body will hold up as a pro. But a healthy Ross should be a big-play machine. In Cincinnati, he’ll slide in as the #2 WR behind A.J. Green. That obviously caps the target upside, but Ross never projected as a volume hog anyway. And he could feast on single coverage with Green drawing attention.

Bengals TE Tyler Eifert (back) won't commit to participating in OTAs but does expect to be ready for training camp. “I’ll be ready and healthy and strong and be ready to go by the time it’s go time,” he said. “I’m close.” Eifert is rehabbing from late-December back surgery. That injury delayed his 2016 debut and cost him the final 2 games of the season. Eifert has missed 42% of Cincinnati's games since joining the team in 2013.

The Bengals and WR Brandon LaFell have agreed to a new deal, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The 30-year-old was a steady presence for Cincinnati last year, hauling in 64 balls for 862 yards and a team-high 6 TDs. He ranked 34th among WRs in PPR points and 33rd in non-PPR. LaFell certainly benefitted, though, from WR A.J. Green and TE Tyler Eifert missing a combined 14 games. If those guys stay healthier in 2017, LaFell's numbers figure to take a hit.

As expected, Bengals OLB Vontaze Burfict (concussion) is inactive for today's finale against the Ravens. Vincent Rey will start in his place. He and Karlos Dansby are solid IDP bets for Week 17.

11:32am EST 1/1/17

Bengals RB Jeremy Hill (knee) is inactive for today’s game against the Ravens. Rex Burkhead figures to operate as the feature back, making him a solid fantasy play.

The Bengals listed RB Jeremy Hill (knee) as questionable for Sunday's game against the Ravens. Cincinnati has mailed it in for the season and could sit the banged-up Hill in the meaningless finale. We're not expecting him to play much even if he's active. RB Rex Burkhead should lead the Bengals backfield in touches.

ESPN's Bob Holtzman reports that the Bengals will likely hold OLB Vontaze Burfict out of Sunday's season finale against the Ravens. Burfict still had yet to clear the league concussion protocol as of Thursday and missed the 1st 2 days of practice this week. He's also listed on the injury report with a knee issue. We'll confirm Burfict's status whenever official word arrives, but expect Vincent Rey to start in his place and Karlos Dansby to lead Cincinnati 'backers in snaps again.

Bengals TE Tyler Eifert underwent back surgery on Tuesday, HC Marvin Lewis said. We don't have any details on the procedure or how long Eifert will be sidelined. But as far as we're concerned, there's no such thing as minor back surgery. Eifert has already missed 27 games through 4 seasons and will be 1 of the biggest injury-risks in 2017 fantasy drafts.

Bengals HC Marvin Lewis confirmed Wednesday that WR A.J. Green (hamstring) won't play in this weekend's finale against the Ravens. So he'll fall 36 yards short of his 6th straight 1,000-yard season. Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd and Cody Core will serve as Cincinnati's top 3 WRs vs. Baltimore.

Bengals TE Tyler Eifert (back) has been placed on IR. He'll miss Sunday's finale vs. the Ravens, bringing him up to 8 missed games on the season. Eifert has still never played a full 16-game slate and has been sidelined for a total of 27 games through 4 seasons. He'll be a risk/reward pick in 2017 fantasy football drafts.

Bengals DE Michael Johnson (shoulder) is active for tonight's game against the Texans. He doesn't make for a strong IDP play against Houston, though.

7:18pm EST 12/24/16

As expected, Bengals WR A.J. Green is inactive for tonight's game against the Texans. That leaves more targets on the field for WRs Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd, especially with TE Tyler Eifert also out.

7:16pm EST 12/24/16

Bengals RB Jeremy Hill (knee) is active for tonight's game against the Texans. He entered the day questionable but makes for a fine fantasy start against a Houston D that plays the pass much tougher than the run.

 
 
 

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