Shark Bites

Bengals S Shawn Williams left Saturday's game after suffering a nasty-looking right elbow injury. The team ruled him out for the game. We'll see about the specific diagnosis.

Bengals WR John Ross (shoulder) was taking part in both individual and 11-on-11 drills on Monday, according to insider Geoff Hobson. It sounds like the rookie is just about a full-go. He'll play catch-up now after missing spring workouts and the start of camp. But there's still time for him to win a significant Week 1 role. Ross is worth considering in the double-digit rounds of drafts as an upside bench stash.

RB Jeremy Hill started in the Bengals backfield in Friday night's preseason opener against Tampa Bay, but rookie RB Joe Mixon got in for touches starting with the 1st drive. Altogether, he carried 6 times for 31 yards and caught a pass for 11 more. Hill, meanwhile, ran for 26 yards on 7 rushes. Amid rumors that Hill could "start" all season, it's clear that Mixon will at least factor heavily into the backfield. We'll see where this work split goes. Of course, Mixon's late-Round 3 ADP has made him an expensive upside play in recent fantasy football drafts.

Bengals RB Gio Bernard (knee) avoided the PUP list and was a full participant in Friday's training camp practice. He's obviously made a ton of progress since June, when the Bengals' official website speculated that he might not even be ready by Week 1. Bernard is now on track to be a full-go for the opener. The bigger question is what his role will be in a crowded backfield that also includes Joe Mixon and Jeremy Hill. Bernard's best bet is winning a passing-down role. His 187 catches since entering the league in 2013 rank 5th among RBs.

Bengals TE Tyler Eifert was fully cleared for the start of training camp. Eifert, of course, is coming off back surgery in late December. He even said that he's felt "100%" for a "couple months," per team reporter Paul Dehner Jr. The Notre Dame product remains an intriguing TD bet, but a lengthy injury history forces us to pass at his current ADP.

Bengals WR John Ross (shoulder) is still expected to be sidelined a "couple of weeks," according to the team's official website. The rookie continues to rehab from surgery to repair a torn labrum. Missing all of spring workouts and the start of training camp makes him a long shot to make an early-season impact. Ross is only worth drafting late in best-ball leagues. Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd figure to open the year as Cincinnati's 2nd and 3rd WRs behind A.J. Green.

Bengals insider Jim Owczarski expects RB Gio Bernard (knee) to be cleared for the start of training camp later this week. He'll almost certainly be eased in, but it's good news after a June report that had Bernard iffy for Week 1. It now looks like he's on track for the opener, barring a setback over the next 6 weeks. Bernard's volume will take a hit this year with the arrival of rookie Joe Mixon. But he could still bring some value in PPR drafts, where his ADP is sitting in the 13th round.

"All indications" are that Bengals TE Tyler Eifert (back) will be ready for the start of training camp later this week, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer's Jim Owczarski. Eifert himself said back in April that he expected to be on the field for camp after undergoing back surgery in December. He'll likely be eased in -- and we'll see whether the Bengals put him on the field for any preseason action. Eifert's ceiling extends into the top 5 at his position, but he's 1 of the biggest injury risks in 2017 fantasy drafts.

Geoff Hobson of the Bengals' official website expects RB Jeremy Hill to remain a factor this season. Specifically, Hobson believes that "Hill figures to always be a presence inside the 5." That makes sense. Despite disappointing the past 2 years, Hill has remained effective near the goal line. He's turned 14 of 28 carries inside the 5-yard line into TDs -- a 50% conversion rate that's more than 5 percentage points better than league average. That role could at least make Hill a factor in TD-heavy fantasy leagues. He also figures to put a dent in RB Joe Mixon's upside. We're as excited as anyone about the rookie's potential, but he might lose goal-line work to Hill and some pass-catching action to Gio Bernard. That'd make it tough to Mixon to pay off his current RB13 price tag.

According to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, RB Giovani Bernard might not be ready for the start of the season. Bernard's expected to avoid the regular-season PUP -- which would cost him at least 6 games -- as he comes back from an ACL tear. The RB's progress will bear watching through the summer, of course, to see exactly when we can expect to see him and how close he'll be to full strength. Any missed time would give Joe Mixon more chances to show his stuff.

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 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.

 
 
 

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