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Cincinnati Bengals fantasy football team preview

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Who to target and avoid in fantasy football from the Cincinnati Bengals.

Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Joe Burrow’s 2019 season at LSU was so historically impressive that Sports Info Solutions dedicated the opening segment of The SIS Football Rookie Handbook 2020, to its significance. The SIS database goes back to 2016. For all of the data between 2016 and 2020, Joe Burrow’s 2018-2019 year-to-year statistical increases registered new database highs in completion percentage (18%), touchdown percentage (7.1%), yards per attempt (3.1), and catchable pass percentage (10%) (pgs. 3-4). Needless to say, the 2019 totals for those categories were among the best in college football. What the Bengals are getting in Joe Burrow is quite possibly a generational talent at quarterback.

The transition to the NFL can be tough, but the Sharp Football’s Strength of Schedule metrics (listed below) indicate that Burrow may have an easier landing than many are afforded. This bodes very well for the Bengals’ loaded pass catching corps, featuring receivers like A.J. Green, John Ross, Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate, and Tee Higgins. TE C.J. Uzomah provides underrated pass catching ability as well. All signs point to dual threat RB Joe Mixon finally having a 16-game breakout season. His recent bout of migraines are a concern though.

Sharp Football’s Strength of Schedule:

  • 11th toughest overall schedule
  • 10th softest in terms of the opponent’s overall defensive efficiency
  • 8th softest blend of pass defenses
  • 8th softest in terms of the opponent’s pass defense efficiency
  • 7th softest blend of rush defenses
  • 10th softest in terms of the opponent’s rush defense efficiency
  • 7th softest in terms of the opponent’s overall offensive efficiency
  • 8th softest in terms of the opponent’s offensive pass efficiency
  • 8th toughest in terms of the opponent’s offensive rush efficiency

Quarterback

Joe Burrow is an NFL-ready passer. He and his deep wideout group should be able to begin exploiting good matchups as early as Weeks 3 and 4 when they play the pass-coverage-deficient Eagles and Jaguars. An underrated aspect of Burrow’s game is his mobility. His raw rushing totals, in his final two seasons, in the yardage and touchdown departments are very similar to that of Russell Wilson. In Wilson’s rookie season (2012), the young quarterback ran for 572 yards and 3 touchdowns, helping Wilson to the overall QB11 finish. Burrow’s current .5PPR 10.11, QB16 ADP is an appropriate place to take him as a platoon quarterback. That said, there are highly valuable platoon options like Cam Newton and Teddy Bridgewater that are going far later.

Running Back

Hysterical Update 9/1/20: At 11:31am PST, incredibly named Cindy beat reporter Tyler Dragon reported that Joe Mixon was not practicing due to migraines. At 11:41am PST, Establish The Run’s Adam Levitan quote tweeted a photo, that Joe Mixon had just posted, explaining that the photo featured Mixon and members of the Bengals’ front office celebrating. At 11:45am PST, Adam Schefter reported that the Bengals and Joe Mixon had just agreed to a 4-year contract extension. Draft Joe Mixon aggressively in the mid-to-back-end of the 1st Round of your fantasy draft.

Joe Mixon was finally unleashed from Week 9 on last season and he answered the call. We need to see a slight increase in his passing game work as he’s a top notch dual threat. But things are trending in the right direction with OC Brian Callahan (via Evan Silva tweet) indicating Mixon is in line for a monster 2020 workload. Should the bellcow workloads come to pass, Mixon should absolutely destroy opposing front-sevens as the aforementioned Sharp Football Strength of Schedule metrics indicate Mixon’s setup for a cake walk of opposing defenses this year. Mixon has said that he’s willing to hold out for a new contract and we need to pay attention to the Cincy news cycles. Suspiciously, as contract talks didn’t immediately result in a new deal, Mixon began missing practices due to migraines. This late in the drafting season, that sort of issue is a concern. Although Mixon’s talent and situation make him worthy of his .5PPR 1.09, RB7 ADP, it might be smart to pass on him for player’s like Miles Sanders, Kenyan Drake, and Julio Jones if we get closer to kickoff and Mixon’s migraines haven’t cleared up.

Veteran backup RB Giovani Bernard hasn’t been fantasy relevant since 2017 and second-year back Trayveon Williams was a productive ball carrier in his final year at Texas A&M. Fantasy/football analysts Matthew Berry, Evan Silva, and J Moyer are all fans of the kid.

Wide Receiver

The most fantasy-reliable receiving weapon on the Bengals roster is hands down slot receiver Tyler Boyd. Burrow emphasized his connection with Boyd in practice Sunday after the two spent the day carving up the defense. The slot receiver shoe certainly fit well at LSU last year. Justin Jefferson, now a Minnesota Viking, occupied that role for Burrow in 2019 en route to a team-leading 111-catch, 1,540-yard, 18 touchdown season on college football’s highest scoring offense. Boyd’s 2020 success won’t just be a product of Burrow’s passing prowess though. The fifth-year receiver has developed into a strong player in his own right, leading the Bengals in receiving over the last two seasons. Grabbing a surefire 1,000-yard receiver in the 7th round (current .5PPR ADP sits at 7.05, WR31) is tremendous value.

A.J. Green easily carries the largest boom/bust range of outcomes on the team. Green’s 2018 was derailed by injury, as was the start to his 2019 season. Although Green didn’t suit up in 2019 — supposedly due to his slow-healing ankle — all signs point to Green having opted to hold out while demanding a new deal. Unfortunately for Green, and his fantasy drafters, he never got that new deal. Instead, the team slapped him with the franchise tag. Green signed it and has been a willing participant in practice. If he plays, he’s an outstanding bet to obliterate his current 6.09, WR28 .5PPR ADP. Green showed no signs of slowing down while healthy in the 2018 season. At just 32-years old, with a year and a half of recuperation, Green should be ready to rock for 2020. His holdout risk is the reason for his 6th Round ADP though. Monitor news surrounding A.J. Green heavily before drafting him. Taking a zero in the 6th round is a risky prospect.

Although athletically challenged, Auden Tate produced spiked, workload-based weeks last season as the injured team tried to patch things together. Tate operated as a jump-ball possession receiver who found success by getting physical with defensive backs in the air. Tate has reportedly had a great training camp thus far and may be separating as the team’s third receiver. It’s possible Tate could garner flex-start consideration in the right matchup. He’d be worth adding off of the waiver wire if he shows well through the first two games.

The Cincinnati front office seemingly drafted deep threat John Ross’s replacement in the 2020 draft after declining his contract’s fifth-year option, albeit with a troubling draft choice. Ross’s three-year career has been largely decimated by injury but he showed well last year in limited action. Ross missed much of training camp, taking care of his family members who tested positive for COVID. Ross has since returned but is unable to practice due to an apparent elbow injury. Ross is going undrafted in some leagues and spending a last round pick on him carries little risk. If he’s unable to play in Week 1, we can cut bait and run. Ross’s potential replacement comes in the form of Tee Higgins.

Higgins was heralded for his downfield prowess in college, but one has to wonder if his success was a symptom of a man-amongst-boys situation. Higgins stands an impressive 6-foot-4, but he opted out of participating in the 2020 NFL Combine, instead showcasing his “athleticism” at his schools’ Pro Day. Pro Days are notorious for inflating a player’s workout numbers as it’s held by the player’s school. With that in mind, HigginsPro Day are major red flags especially if they’re generously inflated. His 31” vertical would’ve placed him in the middle of the offensive linemen group. The 10-yard split (1.66 seconds) of his 4.59-second 40-yard dash was equally troubling and his 4.53-second 20-yard short shuttle, a workout that correlates well to change of direction and route running, showcased all the agility of your uncle’s 20-year old fishing boat. The Bengals tried to draft John Ross’s replacement and ended up with an expensive version of an undeveloped Auden Tate. Tee Higgins is justifiably going undrafted in .5PPR.

Tight End

Given the dearth of pass catching options at receiver and running back, there might not be much to go around at tight end. C.J. Uzomah has flashed at times but is not worth a roster spot.

Kicker

Randy Bullock is a sneaky streaming option as the team is likely to produce fairly well on offense.

Defense/Special Teams

The Bengals D/ST is unlikely to produce much as they’re both talent deficient and will face a number of opponents who excel in the run game, limiting their sack/turnover potential.