2021 Bengals Fantasy Football Preview: With Joe Burrow all systems up and running, there are no limits to the uptrend

Joe Burrow looked like a real deal before his season ended with a cruciate ligament rupture and the hope is that in week 1 he will be himself in the skill positions. But you’d like to see Burrow in a preseason game or two before moving all in.

2020 review

Recording: 4-11-1 (28)
PPG: 19.4 (29)
YPG: 319.8 (29)
YPG pass: 215.5 (27)
Rush-YPG: 104.3 (24)
PAPG: 36.3 (14)
RAPG: 25.7 (17)

2020 fantasy ends

QB: Joe Burrow QB25
RB: Young Bernard * RB30, Joe Mixon RB48
WR: T-piece Higgins WR37, Tyler Boyd WR38, AJ Green * WR105,
TO: Sample drawn TE30
* No longer in the team

Number to know: 658

This is how many pass attempts Burrow had before his injury. That would have been led by the NFL, without taking into account Burrow’s 32 layoffs in his 10 games. This team played fast and fit a lot. I expect the pass-run split to move a bit more towards the league average, but this should still be a very good team – they’re built that way. And they have to be for Ja’Marr Chase, Boyd, and Higgins to all live up to expectations, not to mention Burrow himself. The Bengals invested in their offensive line to better protect Burrow, but don’t expect them to be his Restrict exposure too much – this will be a team spreading and flinging the field. That means this is a team with a ton of offensive advantages.

Team outlook: Hawks | Panther | Ravens

2021 low season

Selection drafts

1. (5) Ja’Marr Hunt, WR
2. (46) Jackson Carman, OT
3. (69) Joseph Ossai, DE
4. (111) Cameron Probe, DE
4. (122) Tyler Shelvin, DT
4. (139) D’Ante Smith, OT
5. (149) Evan McPherson, K.
6. (190) Trey Hill, C.
6. (202) Chris Evans, RB
7. (235) Wyatt Hubert, DE


OL Riley Reiff, DL Trey Hendrickson, CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Mike Hilton, DL Larry Ogunjobi, CB Eli Apple, S. Ricardo Allen

Important departures

WR AJ Green, RB Giovani Bernard, DL Geno Atikins, OL BJ Finney, OL Bobby Hart, QB Ryan Finley, DL Carl Lawson, CB William Jackson

Opportunity available

186 carriers, 71 RB targets, 149 WR targets, 7 TE targets

Preview 2021

Projections by Chris Towers

QB Joe Burrow PA: 616, YD: 4496, TD: 32, INT: 15; RUSH – ATT: 57, YD: 229, TD: 2
RB Joe Mixon AUTO: 277, YD: 1163, TD: 8; TAR: 80, REC: 64, YD: 519, TD: 3
RB Chris Evans AUTO: 105, YD: 391, TD: 1; TAR: 24, REC: 18, YD: 144, TD: 1
WR Tyler Boyd TAR: 116, REC: 79, YD: 828, TD: 6
WR Ja’Marr Hunt TAR: 122, REC: 73, YD: 1052, TD: 7
WR Tea Higgins TAR: 110, REC: 66, YD: 892, TD: 7
TO CJ Uzomah TAR: 62, REC: 41, YD: 413, TD: 3

Biggest question

Can Joe Mixon finally be a superstar?

It’s not that Mixon was a bad fantasy player because he wasn’t. He just failed to live up to some pretty high expectations, usually because he just didn’t have the passing role that other backs play, leaving him heavily on touchdowns. With Giovani Bernard’s release, he may finally have the opportunity to fit into a role that maximizes his worth. If the Bengals give him 70-plus goals, Mixon could be a top 5 defender.

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A sleeper, a breakout and a bust

There is so much hype surrounding this offense that it is terribly difficult to call someone a sleeper. Among the names you know, Tyler Boyd could be the best candidate as he goes to round seven on average on NFC drafts and may only lead the team in goals – while Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase battle for the underdogs Boyd’s role as Slot type seems all but safe. I’ll go with Evans, the Michigan six-round pick, though. Evans played sporadically in college, banned in 2019 due to academic issues, and barely played after his reinstatement in 2020, so the production’s track record isn’t particularly impressive. He’s pretty good size and athletic traits, however, and has some pass catching skills and could emerge as the primary support for Mixon – and someone worth starting if the opportunity presents itself on a good offensive.

I’ve been a Mixon skeptic for a long time, I’ll admit that. It’s not really that I am questioning his abilities, even though I think they are not as important as it seems to so many. Yes, he’s a good back, but he never had the role it takes to be an elite fantasy back. Until now. With Bernard gone, Mixon suddenly has the chance to be a legitimate running back. We know he’s a good runner, and he was good enough as a pass catcher to believe that he could play a bigger role in this facet of the game. If he gets the chance, Mixon could finally join the ranks of the truly elite running backs in Fantasy. And I think he’ll get that chance. I’m ready to take him on the first round in any format.

I don’t feel particularly strong about this one, but Burrow carries more risks than its draft price would likely suggest. Burrow certainly has advantages, but he’s also coming back from a serious knee injury and wasn’t a great fantasy option as a rookie. He has decent athleticism, but that won’t be an essential part of his game, especially after the injury, so Burrow really has to be an elite passer to be a # 1 QB for Fantasy. As a rookie, he was pretty good, finishing 18th in fantasy points per game, and is believed to be better in his sophomore year, especially if Ja’Marr Chase replaces AJ Green. But there is no guarantee of that, and it could get particularly tough at the beginning when he gets his legs under him again. That risk will dissipate if he gets into some preseason games and looks good, and the preseason schedule looks pretty cheap – Vikings, Bears, Steelers and Jaguars – so he can just take off. But given the high bar for fantasy quarterbacks, I may not be ready to pay the burrow premium this season.

So what thresholds, breakouts, and busts should you target and fade away? And which QB shocked the NFL with a top five performance? Head over to SportsLine now for fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model Josh Allen’s huge season called and find out.

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