A Look Inside: 2021 Cincinnati Bengals

There were high hopes in Cincinnati to start the 2020 season. They had the number one draft pick and they got their franchise QB in Joe Burrow. They were probably feeling fairly good about themselves. And then they realized something they should have known all along: They are still the Cincinnati Bengals.

Despite getting their QB of the future, they did not get an offensive line to keep him upright. This led to Burrow suffering a serious knee injury against the monster Washington defense in Week 11. This would cause him to miss the remainder of the season. The team is hoping he will be healthy enough to start this season but only time will tell.

With this in mind, the Bengals used their first-round draft pick in 2021 to make sure he stayed upright and took stud OT Penei Sewell at pick number five…Oh, wait, that’s right, they did not take him. Instead, they got Burrow another weapon, former teammate Ja’Marr Chase. The best WR in the draft but not someone the team needed with the players they have there.

With all of this in mind, let us take a look at what we can expect from the offensive positions for fantasy in 2021.

Note: You can follow the entire Look Inside series with this link and you can watch the full No Punt Intended episode with special guest Matthew Betz on Youtube below!

Quarterbacks

Joe Burrow is the future…if he can make it that far. With Jonah Williams back and the team signing Riley Reiff, the Bengals are hoping the line is better this year than the one which got Burrow demolished during his rookie season. In 2020, Burrow managed to start ten games before getting hurt against Washington. In those games, the team went 2-7-1. Not great, but hey, the team stunk. Not him.

In those ten games, Burrow managed to complete an average of 26.4 passes on 40 average attempts. His 65.3% completions and 2,688 pass yards would have been great for an entire season, let alone just over half. Although the team will want more than 13 TDs to five interceptions moving forward. They may just get their wish after drafting Ja’Marr Chase. The former teammate who, last time they played together, had 20 TDs in 2019 before Burrow left LSU and Chase opted out of the 2020 season.

The weapons are there for Burrow to have a breakout sophomore season. With Chase in the mix, the trio of he, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd will be formidable. The tight end position is lacking a bit but with the rest of the offense being what it is, they should certainly finish better than they did in 2020 when they finished as the 29th ranked offense with only 19.4 points-per-game, while allowing 26.5 on average.

If the Bengals can get better, and they should, Burrow is in for a great season. If not? He is in for a good year as he will be in a lot of garbage time. Either way, the stats should be there to help you in fantasy. A borderline QB1, Burrow can elevate himself even higher if the team meshes. If you are a proponent of the late-round QB, Burrow is a great target. You might just end up with Patrick Mahomes circa 2018 or Lamar Jackson 2019. Just be careful: if the offensive line has not improved, you might be right back on the waiver wire trying to find that next man up halfway through another rough season in Cincinnati.

Running Backs

After suffering from constant migraines in the preseason, Joe Mixon had a remarkable recovery after putting ink to paper on a new extension. With the extension came expectations. He did not live up to them. Suffering from nagging injury after nagging injury, the team finally decided to shut him down after weeks of denying he was injured. Remind you of A.J. Green much? So now we come to 2021 and Mixon will need to reassert himself as a top-10 back in the NFL. Otherwise, it will be another long season for a Bengals team suddenly in a division with three Super Bowl-caliber teams ahead of them.

We know what Mixon can do. He is an all-around back with the potential to be a top-3 fantasy RB if all things break right. His biggest question is durability. The same concerns have been echoed about Dalvin Cook. We saw last season what Cook could do when he finally makes it through a season. Mixon could end up being the same this season. If so, you will get a steal where you can select him in drafts. For this reason alone, he is worth the risk of an RB2 price in the 3rd or 4th round of your drafts. If you are hesitant about him, like many are, there are safer options in his range. (Chris Carson comes to mind.) But if you want the RB2 with the highest potential upside, on a pretty stacked offense, Mixon is your guy this season.

Wide Receivers

If the Bengals had drafted Sewell, Auden Tate would have been a respectable WR3 in this offense. Replacing him with a legitimate WR1 in Ja’Marr Chase though immediately upgrades an offense that needed it. With Chase in the fold, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd can drop down the pecking order a notch. Something which will be to the benefit of Cincinnati as neither is a true WR1.

In a solid rookie season for Higgins, he managed to grab 67 receptions for 908 yards and six TDs. While not to the level of Justin Jefferson, this is a fabulous season for a rookie. Especially one who only played with their starting QB for ten weeks.  On the other side of the field, we have seen in the past what Tyler Boyd can be when he is not the main focus of an offense. With A.J. Green on the field, Boyd was a much different, and better, player. Much like JuJu Smith-Schuster was with Antonio Brown. Chase coming in to take over the top spot will therefore allow Boyd to get back to what he does bestРfind weaknesses in coverages and exploit them.

Although we do not know yet exactly what Ja’Marr Chase will be, if inclinations are right, he is going to be a star. He is still a rookie, so be wary. Take him too high and you might get burned. If you can get any of these three WRs as your fantasy WR3, you should be extremely happy. Chase is likely to be the highest-drafted among them, so it is in your best interest to wait and take the last one left. The difference in their numbers will not be much and any of them could finish statistically as the WR1 for Cincinnati.

Tight Ends

Not much to say here. Drew Sample leads a duo of mediocre TEs in the offense. The 2020 draft pick from Washington was over-drafted when he was taken, and nothing has changed the minds of Bengals fans. Backup C.J. Uzomah has made a few plays but special he is not. Neither one of these players should be rostered for fantasy purposes unless you are in a two-TE league and need a bye week fill-in. Then, it’s still a maybe.