The 2018 NFL regular season has concluded, so it’s time to briefly examine the state of each team’s skill positions for fantasy purposes with an eye towards next season and/or beyond. I will be reviewing each team in the reverse order of the final standings.
Cincinnati Bengals (6-10)
Excluding the game Andy Dalton exited early due to a thumb injury (that was ultimately season-ending and required surgery), his 16-game pace would have put him at just shy of 4,000 passing yards to go along with 32 touchdowns. Former 2016 sixth-round pick Jeff Driskel helmed the offense between Weeks 12 and 17, but only managed to eclipse 200 passing yards just once over that span. Owed a reasonable (by quarterback standards) $33.5 million in base salary over the next two seasons, Dalton is expected to remain the Bengals’ starter, though the team may begin exploring potential long-term replacements given Dalton will turn 32 this October. A game manager who will have a the occasional spiked statistical week, Dalton won’t be on 2019 redraft radars outside of two-QB leagues, and is a fine choice in the double-digit rounds as depth for best ball formats.
Joe Mixon left some lingering doubts about whether he could handle being a three-down workhorse after averaging just 3.5 yards-per-carry as a rookie. Those doubts were convincingly put to rest in 2018, as Mixon finished the season behind only Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in terms of rushing yards per game, while also going over the 100 total yard threshold seven times. With a new offensive brain-trust in town (head coach Zac Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan), Mixon’s ceiling is sky high as a featured back who should see the field even more than he did in his breakout second NFL season (health permitting). Currently, Mixon figures to slot in just behind the elite tier of high-end fantasy RB1s for Summer fantasy draft purposes. Mixon’s ascension left anyone expecting backup Giovani Bernard to carve out a significant backfield role sorely disappointed, though the latter did shine with 182 total yards and three scores as Cincy’s starter during the two games Mixon missed with a knee injury. Even at a $3.4 million base salary for 2019, Bernard should remain in place as the Bengals’ change-of-pace option (and has shown in the past he can fill bigger shoes when called upon) with last year’s fourth-round pick Mark Walton having done nothing as a rookie to deserve more touches.