In 2019 the Bengals went 2-14 under first year head coach Zac Taylor. Taylor and Brian Callahan both return in 2020 for year two, which is good for continuity. The biggest area of weakness in 2019 was by far the offensive line. The Bengals front was dealt a big blow before the season even began, as their first round pick tackle Jonah Williams tore his Labrum, causing him to miss his entire rookie season. The line overall is slightly better than in 2019, but still ranks towards the bottom of all the lines in the league. It will be interesting to see what type of offense this unit will be in 2020. Taylor being from the McVay tree who primarily has the quarterback under center will be getting a rookie who mostly played in shotgun at LSU. So with this we surely can bet we see a mix of both under center and shotgun formations. The other thing we may see out of this offense in more 4 wide receiver sets as the team lacks talent at the tight end position. As of now CJ Uzomah is penciled in atop the depth chart with blocking tight end Drew Sample second on the depth chart. So tight end is arguably the second weakest part of the 2020 roster behind the offensive line.
Joe Burrow (QB) – concern with Burrow in year one is the fact that he will be dealing with below average protection up front. However, if you watch the tape you will see Burrow is very equipped to deal with such deficiency as he is able to slide and maneuver in the pocket very well. Burrow is very mature in terms of his navigation of the pocket and being able to throw from within the pocket and outside the pocket on the move. Burrow has the looks of a quarterback who has been a pro for years. The offense should be similar to what Burrow ran at LSU as the lack of talent at TE should force more four wide receiver looks which Burrow is very comfortable working. Burrow is effective in distributing the ball to the running back position, as was evident last season with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who has been comped to Gio Bernard.
*Fantasy Spin: Burrow is relatively set up for instant success compared to other rookie’s entering the league. Burrow will be the man from day one, he has a great running back to play off of, and his weapons to throw too are very good. Burrow is slotted in as a borderline QB1 for us in redraft as he is our 13th ranked quarterback. In dynasty he is even higher as we have him firmly as a QB1 sitting as our 8th ranked quarterback.
Joe Mixon (RB) – in terms of skillset and talent alone Joe Mixon is a top 6 back in the league. This may seem like a bold statement but let’s look at last year’s numbers behind a historically bad offensive line. Mixon rushed for over 1,100 yards and 5 touchdowns on 278 carries, averaging 4.1 yards a carry. He then was utilized in the passing game catching 35 balls for an addition 287 yards and 3 more touchdowns. Those numbers don’t happen if you are not a top 5 talent. Joe Mixon is the number one running back in terms of yards created per attempt and second in forced miss tackles. Bill Belichick has recently made the comments that he feels through watching tape that Mixon is the most talented back he has seen over recent years, which speaks volumes. Mixon is versatile in the sense that he can be used as an I back or a shotgun back. Mixon is an accomplished pass catcher as well out of the backfield.
*Fantasy Spin: Mixon can be considered a RB1 in both redrafts as well as dynasty leagues. Mixon is our 6th ranked back in redraft and 5th ranked in dynasty leagues based on skillset, talent, and opportunity. Mixon got off to a slow start in 2019 which left people sour, but he finished the season as one of the top backs. So if Mixon falls to you late in round one don’t think twice before locking him up for your team, as he likely will be a league winner in 2020. We are very high on Mixon in 2020.
AJ Green/Tyler Boyd/Tee Higgins (WR) – you look at the talent at wide receiver on this team and you can see why it is very likely Burrow and company are going to be able to put up some nice numbers in 2020. The question is how the work will be divided amongst these quality receivers. A lot will be determined by AJ Green and if he will be healthy enough to get back on the field. This is where the passing game will start as Burrow likely will lean on the veteran. Tyler Boyd proved to be a very talented pass catcher out of the slot in 2019 and was the clubs leading receiver. Then you add rookie Tee Higgins to the mix who figures will be the WR3 on this depth chart sooner rather than later and essentially send John Ross to a reduced role. Look past the three starters and you see just how deep they are at the position. Not only do you have the above mentioned Ross who is fast but you have Auden Tate, who showed last season when given the opportunity is a very capable starter. On paper this unit ranks top ten in overall talent. The only concern is injury and the lines ability to protect the rookie enough for him to be an effective ball distributor.
*Fantasy Spin: Green and Boyd are the wide receivers to own in Cincy when it comes to redraft as we have them ranked back to back as 28 and 31 respectively as WR3’s. Both Green and Boyd have upside where we can see weeks of WR1 production which essentially could propel them into WR2 territory. Higgins makes for a better dynasty target as we have him ranked as our 45th receiver in that format. Higgins likely will be groomed in 2020 to eventually become the teams next AJ Green once Green moves on. However, the upside is there for Higgins given Green’s injury history so we wouldn’t be surprised if the rookie sees an expanded role in year one. We do have Ross ahead of Higgins in redraft as our 74th ranked wide out, as last year before injury looked explosive in the Taylor offense.
Defense – last season this unit ranked towards the bottom of points allowed per game, allowing the ninth most points (24.1). This offseason they didn’t improve much as they went out and grabbed both former Viking CB's Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, who don’t invoke a lot of fear in the backend. So this Bengal defensive unit could be poor again in 2020 in terms of points allowed as this weak secondary will be very generous to opposing pass catches. The defensive line will feature Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap for yet another season of rushing the passer, which ranked bottom six in terms of sacks (31) in 2019.
*Fantasy Spin: This defense is not very appealing as a fantasy option in 2020. We have them ranked as our 30th defense which is do not touch territory.
Strength of Schedule
The Bengals wide receiver corps will face the 5th toughest schedule this season. Their playoff schedule is just as tough as they are projected with the 6th toughest during weeks 14-16. Mixon and Bernard will be looking at the 12th easiest schedule during the fantasy regular season. The backs will have the projected 7th toughest schedule during the fantasy playoffs. Joe Burrow will face the 5th toughest schedule during the fantasy regular season, and the 2nd toughest during weeks 14-16. CJ Uzomah will face the 7th easiest fantasy regular season schedule, but will face the 15th toughest playoff schedule from weeks 14-16.