August 11, 2009
The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking of NFL teams for fantasy purposes. Repeat: FOR FANTASY PURPOSES. We're interested in yards and points here. We began at No. 32, the NFL's least useful franchise (Oakland), and we're working our way toward the elite teams. These ranks are astonishingly accurate and highly collectible. Please enjoy them responsibly.
This team would have rated higher in the Index were it not for all the deductions related to Cedric Benson(notes). A complicated scoring system underpins this thing. Many simulations take place. Cedric did not fare well.
But at this point in the pre-draft season, my dislike for Benson is well established. It's available via column, video and podcast. If you'd like a more optimistic spin, we encourage you to check out Pro Football Weekly's take or review Michael Silver's Bengals camp report.
This is one of the finest Benson quotes in recent years, via Silver:
"I lost all my [expletive], and I wanted to get it back. I was out of the league, forgotten. My Nike deal was gone. I don’t give a [expletive] what anybody says – if you say you’re not in this business to make money, you’re a liar. I wanted my life back."
If anyone knows where to buy a motivational poster with those five sentences beneath this photo, please share. And if you're fired up to own Benson in the first season of a two-year deal, then he's all yours. His [expletive] is back. Enjoy.
Benson's current ADP at Mock Draft Central is 79.6. The three backs selected immediately after him – Ray Rice(notes) (80.4), Felix Jones(notes) (81.0), Donald Brown(notes) (85.5) – all have higher ceilings. Benson arguably has the clearest path to 250 carries, but he averaged just 3.5 YPC last year and 3.4 in '07.
I'd actually prefer Bengals rookie running back Bernard Scott(notes) in the final round to Benson in the seventh. Scott delivered silly small-school college numbers, and no less an authority than Carson Palmer(notes) has praised his camp performance:
"I'd say he's been the star so far of all the rookies. He's made the most plays. He's dropped the most jaws."
But Palmer is notorious for liking everything and everyone in camp – food, weather, mascots – so dial down the sleeper alert just a bit. Veteran back Kenny Watson(notes) was recently released, leaving Scott in a battle with Brian Leonard(notes) and DeDe Dorsey(notes) for Benson's scraps. (Not that there's much Benson can't do on a football field. Except, you know…catch passes, elude tacklers, run for four yards).
Despite the loss of TJ Houshmandzadeh(notes), the Cincinnati receiving corps remains more than credible. Laveranues Coles(notes) signed with the Bengals just days after Housh left. He sounds like he's ready to caddy for Chad Ochocinco(notes) …
"I’m here to be that guy so when they try to take Chad away I can balance out the field. I need to try and get things off of Chad and make plays here and there to keep things honest."
… but expect much more. It would be no great surprise if the 31-year-old Coles and the 31-year-old Ocho posted similar reception totals in '09. There's less draft risk associated with Coles – his ADP is 74.1 to Ocho's 52.9 – but both receivers are likely to start in three-WR formats. Chad claims that he's "85 million times better" than he was last year, which means we could be looking at a 45,900,000,000-yard season. That's great value in the fifth round.
Chris Henry, per his usual, is the sleeper among the Cincy receivers. He's still just 26, it's a contract year, and he's certainly saying all the right things. More importantly for fantasy purposes, Henry is a tremendous red zone threat with a nine-TD season to his credit. He's another nice final round Hail Mary pick. Andre Caldwell(notes) will serve as a slot receiver, kick returner and occasional Wildcat QB. You'll never see the useful week coming, but he'll likely have one. Tight end Ben Utecht(notes) is dealing with the effects of a concussion (not his first) and Reggie Kelly(notes) is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles, so rookie Chase Coffman(notes) (skilled receiver, limited blocker) has a chance to see the field more than we would have projected back on draft day.
Any argument on behalf of any Bengals skill position player begins and ends with the quarterback, of course. Cincinnati's offense was wretched last year in Palmer's absence, finishing last in the NFL in points, 30th in passing yards, 29th in rushing yards and 30th in red zone possessions. But Palmer's elbow has basically become a non-issue in camp, yet his draft position hasn't recovered (ADP 88.1). His presence in the middle rounds – along with guys like Matt Ryan(notes) and Matt Schaub(notes) – is one of the primary reasons to wait on quarterbacks in your draft, unless an obscene value falls your way.
Other Bengals notes: Tackle Andre Smith(notes), the Bengals first-round pick (No. 6 overall), remains unsigned. That O-line was shaky on its best days in '08 (51 sacks allowed, 3.6 YPC gained). … Kicker Shayne Graham(notes) did what he could last year (78 points, 21-for-24 FGA), but the offense did him no favors. He totaled 130 points twice in his career ('05 and '07). … Cincinnati's team defense won't be owned, though Keith Rivers(notes), Chinedum Ndukwe(notes) and Dhani Jones(notes) are IDPs of interest. (Ranks here). You're free to make the case for Rey Maualuga(notes) in comments.
Earlier Juggernauts: 32) Oakland, 31) Cleveland, 30) St. Louis, 29) Miami, 28) NY Jets, 27) Baltimore, 26) Washington, 25) San Francisco, 24) Tampa Bay, 23) Kansas City, 22) Detroit, 21) Seattle, 20) Buffalo.