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2023 Player Outlooks: Cincinnati Bengals

By Colby Cavaliere | 7/3/23 |

Joe Burrow

QB Joe Burrow
2022 QB Rank - No.4, 26.2 FPts/G

To say Joe Burrow has been a franchise altering player is an understatement. In his first three years in the NFL he’s brought the Bengals to two straight AFC championships, (and a Super Bowl), and after decades of being an embarrassment, he’s got the Bengals in annual championship contention. His rivalry with Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen is verging on the stuff of legend, and he’s got the scheme and receiving talent to be a fantasy mainstay at the position for years to come.

Entering year four he has vaulted into the upper echelon of quarterbacks, but is there really much more room to climb the fantasy rankings? Despite rushing for ten touchdowns in his career, he has the lowest rushing yardage floor of all the players ranked above him. While there isn’t much room to grow there, his passing numbers do have a shot to expand. The line improved slightly last year, giving up seven fewer sacks than 2021. Cinci spent big on Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency and the brutal state of their running game combined with having Ja’Marr Chase for a full season, means Burrow should continue the trend of setting career highs in pass attempts. The bottom line here is that Joe Cool should be somewhere in that top-5 mix at the end of the season, but he no longer comes at the discounted price he may have once had.

RB Joe Mixon
2022 RB Rank - No.14, 11.7 FPts/G

After a brutally inefficient season last year, and an offseason marred with off the field issues, finances and lack of veteran depth are likely the only things keeping Mixon on this roster. While the terrible o-line play does factor in, Mixon was one of the least elusive runners in the NFL, rarely carving out his own yards. His 29 carries inside the ten resulted in only six rushing touchdowns, and only four of his whopping 210 carries went for 20 yards or more. What’s worse than the final numbers is the fact former teammate Samaje Perine often was the preferred back in certain situations, especially when it mattered most in the AFC title game. The Bengals replaced Perine with only 5th round pick Chase Brown who offers versatility, and great college production, but will have to dazzle in the preseason to challenge Mixon’s touch monopoly. That is, if Mixon is even on the team. Rumors have swirled all offseason about reducing his salary, and the market for backs has taken a tumble. Outside of 2021, Mixon just hasn’t produced up to his pay, and remains a cut candidate. Not exactly a ringing real life or fantasy endorsement. Even if he remains on the roster, and retains a stranglehold on touches, I’ve seen enough to avoid Mixon’s limited ceiling.

RB Chase Brown
2022 RB Rank - N/A

Should the Bengals part ways with Mixon before the start of camp, would they entertain inserting Brown as the starter? He’s certainly proven he can handle the workload. As a senior at Illinois last season Brown amassed 1,883 scrimmage yards and scored 13 touchdowns. His 1,643 rushing yards were 4th most in FBS, and he was named 2nd team All-American. He’s an effective one-cut runner with speed, and since he’ll never see a stacked box, should have room to maneuver. He’s a sneaky great fit for this offense as really runs hard behind his frame, and has three-down versatility. With a passing game like the Bengals have, Brown would only need some consistent opportunity to be a fantasy factor. If Mixon is jettisoned from this roster, and they don’t replace him with a big name, Brown offers insane value, especially in early drafts and dynasty leagues.

WR Ja’Marr Chase
2022 WR Rank – No. 12, 13.3 FPts/G

A consensus top-3 pick at his position in any format on any planet, Chase finished 2022 with an 87-1046-9 line despite missing four games with a hip injury. With an improved line, and elite scheme, and teammate chemistry, Chase should challenge his former college teammate Justin Jefferson for fantasy supremacy. His elite route running, ball skills, and run after the catch ability make him a threat to score from anywhere, and his floor (only three of his 29 career games have resulted in fewer than five standard fantasy points) make him stand out among a growing list of franchise receivers. He’s a worthy pick at the top of all fantasy drafts.

WR Tee Higgins
2022 WR Rank – No. 17, 10.4 FPts/G

Higgins, the other half of Cinci’s dynamic duo, continues to be a dominant player. Despite missing a few games of his own, he went over 1000 yards and scored a career high seven touchdowns last season. His 10.4 standard points per game over the last two seasons has him in the WR1 category, and there is no reason to believe any type of regression will occur. There actually might be room to grow. With continuity in the offense, and in the receiver room, a contract year on tap and still only 24 years old despite entering his 4th season, there is every reason to believe that Higgins can still take a bigger step forward. I expect Cinci to throw more this year, and that means more looks for Higgins. He’s consistently been at about 110 targets every year, but with 51 targets following Samaje Perine to Denver, and the improved line play, I think that target number goes up, and so does his overall production.

WR Tyler Boyd
2022 WR Rank – No. 38, 6.6 FPts/G

While other teams might employ a more productive fantasy receiving duo than the Bengals, few if any teams can support three fantasy starters at receiver. Boyd continues to be the model of consistency for this offense, and while his numbers have expectedly dipped since the ascension of Chase and Higgins, he’s still managed 750+ yards and five touchdowns in each of the last two seasons, good enough to be in the WR3 conversation. He makes a tremendous value play on your roster as a fill-in starter or handcuff for Higgins/Chase. With the loss of Perine’s 50+ targets, Boyd could also be in line to soak up a few of those, increasing his standalone value even further.

TE Irv Smith
2022 TE Rank No. 46, 3.8 FPts/G

First it was C.J. Uzomah, now Hayden Hurst becomes the latest tight end to bolt the Bengals for a new squad. For the third season in the row the Bengals are forced to turn to a new starter at tight end, but they might have gotten themselves the best pure athlete they’ve had at the position in some time. Let’s keep it real here, Smith was a big bust for the Vikings. Occasionally he flashed that raw natural ability, but was too inconsistent for the Vikings to trust. After struggling to stay healthy last season, Smith was no longer needed after the Vikings dealt for T.J. Hockenson at the trade deadline.

While it never fully came together in Minnesota for the former 2nd round pick out of Alabama, Smith gets a chance to reignite his career on the Bengals. At best 4th or 5th in line for targets, Smith still joins an offense that’s been able to get decent production from players with much less athleticism than Smith. The problem here is simply targets. Unlikely to see more than 60 looks, Smith just won’t get enough consistent volume to be a starter. Maybe this is the year he puts it together, but that’s what fantasy owners have told themselves for a few years, only to eventually cast Smith off to the waiver wire. As a supremely athletic tight end on a dominant offense, he’s worth a look late in the draft as a backup, or upside pick on a fantasy team looking to stitch together the position for the season.

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