2020 Cincinnati Bengals Fantasy Team Preview: In Joe Burrow We Trust!

SI Fantasy's Team Preview series from high-stakes legend Shawn Childs aims to break down the Cincinnati Bengals to evaluate the offense, defense, coaches and everyone in between with a fantasy-slanted analysis.
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Coaching Staff

The Cincinnati Bengals brought in head coach Zac Taylor to hopefully save the sliding franchise in 2019. In his first season, Cincy continued on their downward path with a 2-14 record. Taylor helped Jared Goff make a step forward as the Rams’ QB coach in 2018. He has seven seasons of coaching experience in the NFL with his highest-ranking job before last year being the offensive coordinator/QB coach for the Dolphins in 2015.

This year Taylor has a shining new toy at quarterback plus an intriguing upside option at wide receivers. The change of direction of this franchise should move quickly in a positive direction over the next couple of seasons.

Last year Cincinnati finished 26th in the league in offensive yards gained and 30th in points scored (279). They regressed offensively by 89 points from 2018 (368 points scored). The Bengals brought in Brian Callahan to run the offense last season. Over the previous three years, Callahan worked as the quarterback coach from the Raiders and the Lions. He has ten seasons of experience in the NFL at the age of 36.

Lou Anarumo had been a coach in the NFL since 2012 (eight seasons) while working as a defensive back coach every year except a few games as the interim defensive coordinator for the Dolphins in 2015. Anarumo spent over 20 years coaching in college, with his highest job coming as the defensive backs coach for Purdue for eight seasons.

In his first year as the defensive coordinator for the Bengals, he fell to 32nd in yards allowed and 25th in points allowed (420). His window will be short if Cincy doesn’t show growth on the defensive side of the ball in 2020.

Quarterbacks

Joe Burrow (RANK - ADP)

After struggling to earn a starting job for Ohio State, Burrow made the jump to LSU in 2018. His play that season was below par, which led to a low completion rate (57.8) and only 16 passing TDs over 13 games. He finished with 2,894 yards passing with some value as a runner (128/399/7) while minimizing the damage in his mistakes throwing the ball (five Ints).

His rags to riches story in 2019 ended with a Heisman Trophy and a national title. Last year Burrow lit the college world on fire at the quarterback positions. His completion rate (76.3) was off the charts great, which led to 5,671 passing yards and an astounding 60 passing TDs and only six interceptions. Burrow chipped in 368 yards on the ground on 115 carries (3.2 yards per rush) and five more touchdowns.

The LSU passing game was helped dramatically by the emergence of WR Ja’Marr Chase (84/1780/20) and WR Justin Jefferson (111/1540/18).

Last year the Bengals ranked 19th in passing yards per game (228) with only 18 passing TDs. Burrow has three viable weapons at WR with a talented lead RB. Cincy needs to clean up its offensive line issues (48 sacks in 2019) while adding another receiving option at TE.

I have him hitting the ground running, leading to 4,500-plus combined yards with 26 TDs. Upside talent, but his schedule isn’t ideal. He's also already showing good leadership skills.

Running Backs

Joe Mixon (RANK - ADP)

Mixon buried fantasy teams over his first eight games (430 combined yards with three TDs and 19 catches on 120 touches) while averaging only 3.2 yards per rush. Over his final eight games, he averaged 24.1 touches per week, leading to a massive turn around in his year (994 combined yards with five TDs and 16 catches). His big finish moved him to 13th in RB scoring (14.8 FPPG) in PPR leagues. The addition of Joe Burrow at QB invites some intrigue with the Bengals’ offense in 2020. Cinci has talent at wide receiver, creating a higher scoring environment. Mixon is in the last year of his contract, which may lead to potential holdout this summer. Top ten RB upside while needing a bump in chances in the passing game to rank even higher.

I have him projected for 1,586 combined yards with ten TDs and 50 catches.

Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams & Rodney Anderson

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Wide Receivers

A.J. Green (RANK - ADP)

Green has been a losing investment for fantasy owners in three of his last four years due to 29 missed games. Last year in late July, he tore some ligaments in his left ankle, which led to a regressing timeline for his return. Green went from missing a month to sitting out the whole season. Over his five seasons of action with 13 games or more played, Green gained over 1,000 yards each year with a floor of 65 catches. In his career, he scored 63 TDs on 111 games while averaging 16.9 fantasy points in PPR leagues.

On the downside of his career. It’s all about health here. His initial projects come in at 79 catches for 1,092 yards and six TDs.

Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins & John Ross

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Tight Ends

C.J. Uzomah

In 2018, Uzomah set career-highs in catches (43), receiving yards (439), TDs (3), and targets (64). Last year with Tyler Eifert back on the field, he caught 27 passes for 242 yards and two TDs over 40 targets. Over his final two games in 2019, Uzomah had playable fantasy value (4/37/1 and 5/25/1). Low floor and minimal ceiling, which makes him only a waiver-wire option.

Drew Sample

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Defense

The Bengals allowed the most rushing yards (2,382) in 2019, which was created by volume (31.5 rushes per game). Ball-carriers gained 4.7 yards per rush with 22 runs gaining over 20 yards. Cincy gave up 17 rushing TDs for the second straight season.

Their pass defense finished 21st in passing yards allowed (3,917) with 25 TDs and 11 Ints. Receivers gained over 20 yards on 70 plays (third-most). Cincy posted only 31 sacks.

In the premium outlook, on defense you'll find write-ups for DT Geno Atkins, DT D.J. Reader, DE Carlos Dunlop, DE Sam Hubbard, LB Germaine Pratt, LB Logan Wilson, CB Trae Waynes, CB William Jackson, S Vonn Bell & S Jessie Bates.

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Team Defense Outlook

This defense should be much improved this year. Their secondary has enough talent to grade above the league average in coverage if William Jackson regains his form. The Bengals’ defensive line has two top, aging players, but the sum of all four starting options should rank in the upper half of the league. Cinci’s success defending the run comes from their offseason changes and the development of their young players at linebacker. May surprise as times with a chance to offer matchup value in fantasy leagues.

Free Agency, Draft, Offensive Line, Offensive Schedule & Defensive Schedule

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