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2023 Fantasy Football Preview: Cincinnati Bengals

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Player Outlooks (2023)


QB Joe Burrow: Some were anticipating a drop in production for Burrow last year, but he threw for a career-high 35 touchdowns and was mostly lights out despite playing without Ja’Marr Chase for a chunk of the season. Cincinnati hopes to have the offensive line completely solidified after swooping in to sign left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. during free agency, and the big plays climbing back to 2021 levels (8.9 yards per attempt and 12.6 yards per completion, compared to 7.4 yards per attempt and 10.8 yards per completion last year) would give Burrow a good shot of finishing as a top-five fantasy option on a pass-heavy attack.


RB Joe Mixon: You can look as recently as the AFC Divisional Round victory over the Bills to see the kind of impact Mixon can still have (22 touches for 123 yards and a touchdown), so we’re expecting him to perform at a high level in 2023 despite talk of him being a cut candidate. Last year, Mixon quietly caught a career-high 60 passes, and he should again be leaned on as a receiver—especially with Samaje Perine now in Denver. The stock has climbed with others realizing Mixon won’t be going anywhere, but he’s still a value in fantasy drafts.


RB Trayveon Williams: With the aforementioned Samaje Perine gone, there is a big opportunity for Williams to emerge as the No. 2 back—and he’s been talked up by the coaching staff this offseason. There will be competition, but Williams has flashed dating back to his Texas A&M days and could seamlessly slide into the role Perine had in a best-case scenario.


RB Chase Brown: Brown is an intriguing prospect that profiles as a change-of-pace option with big-play ability, but he probably won’t see enough touches to get on the FLEX radar without an injury. After four fumbles in his final season at Illinois, Brown must fix any ball security concerns to be trusted by the contending Bengals.


RB Chris Evans: Evans came up clutch with a game-winning touchdown against the Chiefs last year in the regular season, but he was limited to three total touches on the season and now could be on the roster bubble. On the other hand, Evans could realistically emerge as the backup based on his receiving skillset, so the battle behind Joe Mixon will be one to watch this summer.


WR Ja’Marr Chase: Chase going for an 8/130/2 line against the Falcons with a hairline fracture in his hip—a week after catching the game-winning 60-yard touchdown with the injury against New Orleans—shows how much of a freak he is, and the hip eventually keeping him out four games didn’t prevent Cincinnati’s No. 1 wideout from a 1,000-yard season. We are banking on the big plays that made him such a force as a rookie to be more routine in 2023, so the combination of touchdown upside, explosive plays, and heavy volume (close to a 200-target pace last year) makes him worthy of top-five consideration.


WR Tee Higgins: He’s been extremely consistent from a statistical perspective through three seasons, but Higgins’ ability in one of the NFL’s top passing attacks leaves room for him to explode with a huge campaign—particularly if the touchdowns jump into the double-digits. We wouldn’t hold a couple of “goose eggs” against Higgins after he tried playing through a hamstring issue last year, and he should at least be a strong WR2 option with a high ceiling.


WR Tyler Boyd: Boyd has been a very steady No. 3 wideout for the Bengals, but the production was very quiet over the final three months of last season—with a combined 32 receptions, 358 yards, and one touchdown over the final 11 games (including playoffs). The selection of Charlie Jones in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft could make this the final year for him with the Bengals, and we’ll see if Boyd can enjoy a jump in production after the big plays increased in 2022.


WR Charlie Jones: Again, Jones might be more of a long-term investment with a look ahead to 2024, but he’s a very polished slot receiver that can also play on the perimeter. It’s easy to imagine Jones becoming a clutch target for Joe Burrow, including in the postseason, and he’d have FLEX potential in redraft leagues if he becomes the eventual replacement for Tyler Boyd.


WR Trenton Irwin: Irwin came alive down the stretch last regular season with four touchdowns in seven games following Cincinnati’s bye week, but his real-life contributions were much more impactful than any fantasy appeal he might carry. During the seven-game stretch, Irwin totaled 12 receptions for 190 yards, and he’ll be a role player in 2023.


WR Andrei Iosivas: A sixth-round pick out of Princeton, Iosivas has good size at six-foot-three with impressive movement skills and athleticism. He’ll be blocked on the depth chart for this season, but perhaps Iosivas will be able to form a connection with Joe Burrow that pushes him into the starting lineup next year (though Tee Higgins sounds likely to remain in Cincinnati).


TE Irv Smith Jr.: Things will mostly run through the star receiving trio and Joe Mixon for the Bengals, but Smith is a young (turning 25 in August) and talented player with breakout potential on a new squad. Last year, Hayden Hurst had a 17-game pace of 68 receptions, and Smith is a very good TE2 target that might get going following two tough divisional matchups to begin the season (@ CLE, v BAL).


TE Drew Sample: Sample returned to Cincinnati after hitting free agency, but the former second-round pick has been much more impactful for his blocking—as he’s totaled 58 receptions in 44 career games. An injury to Irv Smith Jr. might mean more reliance on the wideouts and running backs on an offense that already slants towards Chase, Higgins, and Boyd.


Other Notes


Best IDP value: CB Cam Taylor-Britt

We loved Taylor-Britt entering the league last year, and he’s the total package at cornerback with great cover ability and high aggressiveness/willingness as a tackler. Confidence should be high for the second-year cornerback after he showed shutdown potential late last season, and IDP drafters should jump on him while he’s still severely undervalued.


Stat to know (via draft guide)

In last year’s draft guide, our interesting stat for the Bengals was Tyler Boyd averaging just 5.9 targets per game in 2021 after 8.1 targets per game from 2018 through 2020; he averaged 5.1 targets per game in 2022.