AFC North offers value plays with sneaky upside

Wide receiver John Ross set a record in the 40-yard dash before being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals. Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals seem to be at somewhat of a crossroads, as they’re coming off the worst season in the Andy Dalton era. The Bengals made the playoffs in each of Dalton’s first five NFL seasons, though each and every appearance ended pretty quickly with a wild-card round loss. Still, the Bengals won more than they lost for five seasons. Dalton was certainly competent, A.J. Green was certainly great, and the defense was certainly good enough to get the team into January.

Last season’s Bengals won only six games, and whether one chooses to blame Dalton’s inconsistency, Green’s injury, the struggling running game, the undisciplined defense or longtime coach Marvin Lewis, the fact is the organization isn’t at all like the other squads in the AFC North. Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have won Super Bowls with their current quarterbacks. The Cleveland Browns won one game last season and don’t have much at quarterback. The Bengals are lurking somewhere in between, and there could be changes looming. Is this a playoff team, or will it struggle again in 2017?

As we continue our summer divisional series by looking at the AFC North, the intriguing Bengals -- along with the Steelers, Ravens and Browns -- merit further examination for fantasy purposes. The NFC East, NFC North, NFC South, NFC West, and AFC East have already been covered, so check ‘em out!

Top three AFC North changes for fantasy purposes