2021 Fantasy Football Cincinnati Bengals Preview

by Tyler Mulligan
2021 Fantasy Football Cincinnati Bengals Preview

Welcome to the 2021 Fantasy Football Cincinnati Bengals Preview!

From oozing mediocrity to having one of football’s best up-and-comers in Joe Burrow, the Cincinnati Bengals look poised to make waves in the rough and tumble AFC North.

Although they don’t have the star power of the Browns, the playoff lineage of the Steelers, or the versatility of the Ravens, the Bengals could quietly become one of the most interesting teams to watch in the 2021 season.

At 4-11-1, last season wasn’t anything to write home about. But that's what everyone expected. The Bengals are amidst a rebuild. This past offseason, they’ve filled in some of their gaps through drafting and free agency, while trimming some of the fat on their roster. 

Still far from a contender and in a competitive division, the Bengals will look to improve on last season, with an increased focus on their talented offensive roster.

2021 Fantasy Football Cincinnati Bengals Preview

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Joe Burrow’s inaugural season came to a screeching halt when the young gunslinger was sidelined by an ACL tear. After ten games, Burrow had a 2-7-1 record, which was a complete paradigm shift from his previous season at LSU.

It wasn’t Burrow’s fault, as the Bengals’ defense was one of the worst in the NFL. He also had a leaky offensive line that ultimately led to the season-ending injury. 

Also, in the games Burrow conceded, he was within a touchdown in five of the seven losses. Despite the lack of support from the defensive side, Burrow exceeded expectations by simply hanging around in games, whether or not those ended in wins or losses.

In his 10 starts, Burrow threw for 2688 yards on a 65.3% completion rate to go along with a 13-5 TD-to-INT ratio. Most alarming, however, is the fact that he was sacked 32 times. Bengals quarterbacks were sacked on 7.63% of all drops in 2020.  This ranked 25th in the NFL in 2020. With an average of 3 sacks per game, Burrow and his replacers were consistently put at risk— indicative of their less than stellar O-Line protection.

Many fans and analysts agreed that during the draft, Cincinnati should target a blue-chip offensive lineman. In particular, Penei Sewell of Oregon seemed like a perfect fit. Instead, they took one of the most explosive college receivers, Ja’marr Chase, reuniting Burrow with his favorite target while at LSU.

Although Chase makes the Bengals offensive substantially more dynamic, fantasy owners with Burrow stock will be holding their breath every time he drops back to pass.

Running Backs

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With the departure of long-time Bengal Giovani Bernard to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s on Joe Mixon to manage the load. 

Last season, Mixon ended up on the sideline after suffering a right foot injury in Week 6 against the Colts. As a result, he was placed on the injured reserve for the remainder of the 2020 season. 

In his previous two seasons, Mixon topped 1,100 yards, hitting pay dirt on 17 occasions. In his truncated 2020 campaign, the University of Oklahoma product saw a dip in production, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, but scored a respectable three touchdowns on the ground and one through the air in six games played.

Assuming Mixon stays healthy, he has massive bounce-back potential with Bernard no longer available for short-yardage and goal-line situations. 

Samaje Perine doesn’t provide much of a threat to Mixon’s job security, although he did show signs of prominence in Week 16 against Houston, gashing the Texans defense for 95 yards on 13 carries.  Still, the only reason to roster Perine is if Mixon goes down with an ailment.

Wide Receivers

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Reunited and it feels so good.

Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase are back together, both as top-five picks in their respective draft classes. The talent pool of LSU runs undeniably deep and Cincinnati has two of the best skilled-position players from the 2019 National Championship squad.

The last time Burrow and Chase played together, it ended with 1,780 yards receiving yards, 84 receptions, and 20 touchdowns in a star-studded SEC conference. That year, Chase won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the NCAA’s top receiver. 

Justin Jefferson was also a part of this team, and his skill more than translated into NFL (and fantasy) success. To think that Justin Jefferson—a 2020 NFL Rookie of the Year candidate and fantasy workhorse— was Burrow’s second option speaks volumes to the type of talent Chase brings to the table.

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Although there are plenty of mouths to feed in Cincy from a wide receiver perspective, fantasy owners should expect the Louisiana native to walk on as the top dog. 

With that being said, prospective drafters shouldn't sleep on Tyler Boyd. Although he had a dip in production in 2020,  he was coming off two straight 1,000-yard seasons. In his career, the 26-year-old has averaged a solid 11.7 yards per reception. Despite having a down year in terms of yardage, Boyd caught 71.8% of the targets that came his way, a career-best. He’s a serviceable fantasy piece and should be on the radar in the mid-to-late rounds.

Lastly, Tee Higgins’ lofty frame should allow for mismatches against defenses, especially if the Bengals employ him out of the slot. At 6-foot-four, he’s already bigger than the lion's share of defensive backs. 

While he’s probably going to take the biggest fantasy hit of all the receivers as a result of Chase entering the league, he might have value in the later rounds. Higgins compiled 908 yards on 68 receptions and six touchdowns in his rookie campaign.

Burrow has tantalizing weaponry surrounding him heading into 2021.

Tight Ends

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Good thing Burrow has a great cast of receivers at his disposal because Cincinnati’s tight-end corps is forgettable, to say the least.

Drew Sample, who is primarily a blocking tight end, reeled in 40 catches for 349 and a touchdown last year. Meanwhile, CJ Uzomoah was carted off early last season with a season-ending Achilles tear.

Before sustaining the catastrophic injury which ultimately shelved Uzomah, he played a significant role for Burrow as an emergency valve. The former Auburn Tiger caught 11 passes in less than two full games.

If anyone is going to be usable as an emergency TE, I’d put my money on Uzomah. His fantasy history, however, leaves much to be desired. Fantasy managers can comfortably leave him off the draft board. 

Final Verdict

The Cincinnati Bengals have added offensive firepower to their arsenal. The big question is whether their porous offensive line can provide protection long enough for Burrow to sling it downfield. From a fantasy perspective, it will be a boom or bust season, without much room in the middle. If you’re into betting or like living on the edge,  this is the perfect team to load up shares on.

Check out the rest of our 2021 Fantasy Football content from our great team of writers!

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