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Cincinnati Bengals Team Preview: Tee Higgins | Fantasy Football

Tee Higgins Fantasy

It was another tough season-ending for Cincinnati in 2022, but they are expected to be right back in the mix this upcoming season. There have been some tweaks to the offensive line and defense over the offseason, but this team will only go as far as quarterback Joe Burrow will take them. Ja’Marr Chase has quickly established himself as a top receiver in the league, but in this article, I will focus on what I consider the “X-Factor” of this offense: Tee Higgins

Tee Higgins 2023 Fantasy Football Outlook

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The Cincinnati Bengals put the NFL world on notice after the 2021 season. They went through Kansas City to reach Super Bowl LVI but fell just short of the ultimate goal when they lost 23-20 to the Rams. Even though it was a devastating loss, the fan base was rejuvenated, and Cincy established itself as a legitimate contender in the AFC. 

While 2022 was another great year for the franchise, this time, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs got the best of them in the AFC championship on their way to a second Lombardi Trophy in four years. The Bengals have made adjustments and have the weapons to improve in 2023.

Most Anticipated Rookie Class

If you were plugged into the dynasty/devy space leading up to the 2020 class, then you remember how hyped up it was, especially at the wide receiver and running back positions. Tee Higgins was one of several names that were set to shift the fantasy landscape once they came onto the scene.

Three years later, most would say the 2020 class didn’t quite live up to the hype. We didn’t get as many elite players as expected, but Higgins has not disappointed. He was taken by Cincinnati as the 7th wideout off the board at the start of Round 2.

Higgins was coming into what appeared to be a crowded wide receiver room with AJ Green and Tyler Boyd. Joe Burrow was also a rookie with a lot to prove as the number one overall pick. That caused Higgins to slide in fantasy drafts, and he would often go undrafted in redraft leagues. This proved to be a typical case of “talent over situation” because Higgins ended up with 908 receiving yards and six touchdowns in his rookie campaign. He was the 8th rookie wideout since 2015 to achieve 900 or more receiving yards. 

2022 Recap and 2023 Outlook

Higgins continued to build off of his rookie season, putting up 1,091 yards in Year 2. If you compare that to his 2022 totals, it seems like he might have plateaued. But if you remember the context around his season, that is not the case at all.  

Even though his game logs show 17 games played, Higgins left three different games early due to injury (two of them, he recorded no catches). On top of that, their Week 17 contest against Buffalo was cut short because of the Damar Hamlin incident. If we remove those four games, his average weekly PPR score comes out to 16.6 points per game. That would tie him with DeAndre Hopkins as the WR11. 

We also have to keep in mind that Ja’Marr Chase missed four games on the season, which could have provided a boost to Higgins’ production. With a current ADP of WR13, I don’t see Higgins returning major value outside of Chase missing a large chunk of time. Some receivers going behind Higgins in redraft include Keenan Allen, Chris Olave, and DK Metcalf. I view these as better options due to the upside of being the number one target in their respective offenses. 

The bottom line: Tee Higgins remains a safe fantasy play. Last season, he finished outside of the Top 24 WRs in only three of his full games played. He is an excellent fantasy asset due to his age and connection to a Joe Burrow offense, but in redraft, I see a few other receivers in his range that I prefer to take the shot on because of their higher upside.

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A Look Inside the Cincinnati Bengals

Editor’s Note: We don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Drew’s article focused on Tee Higgins in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the other fantasy-relevant Bengals by Josh Hudson.

Joe Burrow

Joe Burrow’s high passing volume has him firmly in the second tier of fantasy QBs. How can he take the next step? He’s not going to have a high rushing floor, but if he can maintain his five rushing touchdowns from a year ago, he can flirt with Tier 1. The talent around him, arguably the best WR trio in Ja’Marr Chase, the aforementioned Tee Higgins, and super slot WR Tyler Boyd, could easily result in a 40+ passing TD season. Even as the fifth QB off the board, there’s upside to consider.

Joe Mixon

I’m not going to lie: there isn’t much sexy about Joe Mixon. Sure, he provides a lot of volume, and he’s the featured back in high-powered offense. But he has four straight seasons with an average of 4.1 yards per carry or fewer. Last year marked his lowest rush attempts per game since his rookie season. The plus side? He saw the most targets in his career. A lot of his depressed ADP (RB15) is likely a result of the rumors that he’d be released. But a restructured contract heading into this season should help his ADP climb through August. Fantasy managers love volume, and even with the awful efficiency numbers, Mixon will have value. But consider me out on Mixon in 2023 as they begin to shift offensive focus from him and more onto Burrow and the WRs.

Chase Brown

The hot-shot rookie everyone wants to be the new Joe Mixon. Brown flashed three-down potential at Illinois, but Brown’s time likely won’t come in 2023 unless Mixon misses significant time. Still, he makes for a late-round dart throw with the number of touches Mixon has accumulated throughout his career.

Ja’Marr Chase

Chase took Justin Jefferson’s rookie season to heart and reset the rookie receiving yards record in 2021. In 2022, we saw a slightly different Chase, and not just because he missed time with a hip injury. He morphed into a possession receiver, and his yards per reception sunk from 18 his rookie year to 12 last year. But you know what ticked up? His targets per game to 11.17 per game. If Chase can find a balance between elite yards per reception, elite target share, and 10+ touchdowns, you could be looking at the overall WR1. And that’s precisely what I think he’ll be in 2023.

Tyler Boyd

Boyd is the ultimate safety blanket. It’s who he is. He’ll likely finish as a top-36 WR. He’ll have some pop weeks depending on matchups, but he will essentially be a roster clogger because you’ll never know when to start him. FLEX appeal, at best.

Irv Smith Jr.

People saw Hayden Hurst command 68 targets in this offense and suddenly think Irv Smith can be… better? The offense hasn’t changed. The TE is, at best, 4th in the pecking order for targets. And Smith has averaged 9.4 yards per reception over his career. If you get excited about that, have at it.