The Cincinnati Bengals enter the 2023 season as one of the most exciting offenses both for real life and Fantasy Football. For a short stretch of time during the Joe Burrow era, it looked as if defensive coordinators would be able to take away this offense's upside by playing in two-high safety shells, but that time has passed. Burrow's rapport with Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins is too strong, and Chase in particular is too efficient at beating press-man coverage. The Bengals used major assets to improve their offensive line two offseasons ago and did the same thing this offseason by acquiring Orlando Brown Jr. to play tackle. The biggest questions for this offense are fun ones like can Irv Smith finally break out with the best quarterback play of his career and how much can we expect from a Day 3 rookie running back like Chase Brown in Year 1. It's a good time to be a Bengals fan and an even better time to roster Bengals players in Fantasy.
- AFC North: | |
Below the CBS Sports Fantasy staff will take a look into the Bengals' entire team outlook including a burning question for Fantasy Football managers that needs to be answered, key player projections, a review of their draft class, strength of schedule, and individual player outlooks for all of the notable Bengals players who may end up on your Fantasy rosters.
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Bengals 2023 team outlook
By Chris Towers
Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase both took the step backwards we expected in terms of efficiency, and both also re-affirmed their status as two of the best options at their respective positions. This is one of the best offenses in the league and figures to remain so as long as Burrow is healthy, though they'll have to make some tough decisions about their roster before long.
Burning question: Can Joe Mixon remain the RB1?
It felt like we spent the entire offseason waiting for the Bengals to cut Mixon, and then they didn't. He might not be the superstar many wanted him to be, but his role in this Bengals offense is still hugely valuable -- the starting running back for the Bengals combined for 248 carries and 89 targets last season. If he can stay in the coaching staff's good graces, Mixon could be this year's Josh Jacobs, an RB most have given up on who surprises with a high-end season thanks to elite usage.
Key Bengals player projections
|QB||Joe Burrow||PA: 597, YD: 4356, TD: 33, INT: 13; RUSH -- ATT: 62, YD: 218, TD: 3|
|RB||Joe Mixon||CAR: 270, YD: 1078, TD: 10; TAR: 72, REC: 54, YD: 403, TD: 2|
|RB||Chase Brown||CAR: 50, YD: 214, TD: 2; TAR: 18, REC: 14, YD: 115, TD: 1|
|WR||Ja'Marr Chase||TAR: 161, REC: 108, YD: 1360, TD: 11|
|WR||Tee Higgins||TAR: 131, REC: 92, YD: 1191, TD: 7|
|WR||Tyler Boyd||TAR: 84, REC: 57, YD: 821, TD: 3|
|TE||Irv Smith||TAR: 66, REC: 44, YD: 460, TD: 3|
2023 NFL Draft class
1. (28) Myles Murphy, DE
2. (60) DJ Turner II, DB
3. (95) Jordan Battle, DB
4. (131) Charlie Jones, WR
5. (163) Chase Brown, RB
6. (206) Andrei Iosivas, WR
6. (217) Brad Robbins, P
7. (246) DJ Ivey, CB
Bengals 2023 schedule breakdown
Projected Strength of Schedule rankings by Dave Richard
- QB PSoS: 12th easiest
- RB PSoS: 13th easiest
- WR PSoS: 9th easiest
- TE PSoS: 11th easiest
|1||Sep 10, 2023||@Cleveland||1:00 pm||Cleveland Browns Stadium|
|2||Sep 17, 2023||vsBaltimore||1:00 pm||Paycor Stadium|
|3||Sep 25, 2023||vsL.A. Rams||8:15 pm||ESPN||Paycor Stadium|
|4||Oct 1, 2023||@Tennessee||1:00 pm||FOX||Nissan Stadium|
|5||Oct 8, 2023||@Arizona||4:05 pm||FOX||State Farm Stadium|
|6||Oct 15, 2023||vsSeattle||1:00 pm||Paycor Stadium|
|8||Oct 29, 2023||@San Francisco||4:25 pm||Levi's Stadium|
|9||Nov 5, 2023||vsBuffalo||8:20 pm||NBC||Paycor Stadium|
|10||Nov 12, 2023||vsHouston||1:00 pm||Paycor Stadium|
|11||Nov 16, 2023||@Baltimore||8:15 pm||AMZN||M&T Bank Stadium|
|12||Nov 26, 2023||vsPittsburgh||1:00 pm||Paycor Stadium|
|13||Dec 4, 2023||@Jacksonville||8:15 pm||ESPN||TIAA Bank Field|
|14||Dec 10, 2023||vsIndianapolis||1:00 pm||Paycor Stadium|
|15||Dec 17, 2023||vsMinnesota||TBA||—||Paycor Stadium|
|16||Dec 23, 2023||@Pittsburgh||4:30 pm||NBC||Acrisure Stadium|
|17||Dec 31, 2023||@Kansas City||4:25 pm||GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium|
|18||Jan 7, 2024||vsCleveland||TBA||—||Paycor Stadium|
Bengals 2023 player outlooks
By Dave Richard unless otherwise noted
QB Joe Burrow
Blessed with the best receiving corps in football, a pass-first play-caller and an improved offensive line, Burrow is a safe top-five quarterback for Fantasy.
In 28 career games with Ja'Marr Chase, Burrow has topped 22 Fantasy points 18 times. And while Burrow's efficiency technically dropped in his third season, he saw an uptick in pass attempts to more than make up for it. And this year, he'll have what's projected to be an easier schedule to help him further. The expectations are set: Burrow is viewed as a 4,500-yard passer with 32-plus touchdown potential along with some rushing production.
Burrow may not be explosive enough as a thrower or a runner to be the No. 1 overall Fantasy Football quarterback, but he's a mortal lock to be close. Expect him to be the fourth, fifth or sixth quarterback off the board in every draft.
RB Joe Mixon
Mixon has averaged over 15 PPR points per game for three straight seasons, but a fourth consecutive one isn't promised. The 27-year-old is coming off an inconsistent campaign where he recorded one game with a season-best 55.1 PPR points, another one with more than 20, and under 13.0 points in seven of his remaining 12 outings. His role could also change -- third-down back Samaje Perine has moved on to Denver -- but the Bengals added rookie Chase Brown and kept backup speedster Trayveon Williams with pass-downs specialist Chris Evans still on the roster. And naturally, the offense gravitated toward Joe Burrow running the show, leaving Mixon with 15.0 carries per game, a five-year low.
Assuming an off-field incident doesn't result in some sort of punishment, Mixon has redeemable value as a lead RB in a strong offense. He just might frustrate you from week to week. That's why Mixon will end up going off the board as a starter with a pick between 30th and 40th overall.
RB Trayveon Williams
Williams won't be a priority draft pick this summer, but he might be one off the waiver wire during the year.
Of course, we've said similar things for four years now without Williams even getting a sniff of regular work. He's averaged 5.1 yards per carry in his career but has just 47 career rush attempts. He's averaged 8.0 yards per catch in his career but has just eight receptions. He has zero career touchdowns. But if Joe Mixon misses playing time at any point, Williams should be in position to at least share carries. Remember the name as a possible waiver-wire add during the year.
RB Chase Brown
Fifth-round pick Brown figures to joust for a spot on the Bengals depth chart in training camp this summer. The former Illinois lead rusher is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with 41 total grabs. He averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry in each of five seasons of college football. He's a compact, physical back with good vision and cuts, and he also made strides in his receiving and blocking ability. He's a little on the older side at 23 (less than four years younger than Joe Mixon) but seems capable of being a decent player.
Drafting Brown in seasonal formats isn't advised unless it's crystal clear he's the backup to Mixon. He's more of a top-25 pick in rookie-only drafts and a late-round flier in keeper leagues.
RB Chris Evans
With Samaje Perine off to Denver, there's a chance Evans becomes the Bengals' new passing-downs running back. He will face competition from rookie Chase Brown, who is also capable of handling throws and pass protecting. Whichever guy ends up in the passing downs role, assuming it's not Joe Mixon, he would carry minimal value in PPR leagues. Until it's sorted out, Evans isn't a good Fantasy pickup.
WR Ja'Marr Chase
In just two years, Chase has proven to be among the elite wide receivers in Fantasy Football.
But should he be the first receiver drafted? While he ranks among the top 12 in basic and high-level receiving stats over the past two years, including targets per game (9.03) and end-zone targets (27), he is behind Justin Jefferson in nearly every one. About the only way Chase could catch Jefferson is with a higher target rate, which would mean he'd have to dominate in Cincinnati while Jefferson loses serious volume in Minnesota. That's an unlikely combination. Still, Chase should finish as the second-best receiver in Fantasy, just as he did last season among WRs who played 10-plus games.
Expect the Bengal to be taken within the first three picks in all non-Superflex/two-QB PPR format drafts this summer (maybe the first six picks in a non-PPR).
WR Tee Higgins
Higgins is clearly a big part of the Bengals passing game, but does he have a big enough job to warrant a top-30 pick in Fantasy drafts?
Last year, Higgins averaged 13.8 PPR points per game (19th best among receivers) and logged six games with 15-plus Fantasy points and another four with 13-to-14 Fantasy points. That underwhelming consistency is only further concerning when you learn two of the six with 15-plus and two more of the 13-14 point variety came when teammate Ja'Marr Chase was inactive. In fact, since Chase entered the NFL in 2021, Higgins has 10 games with 15-plus PPR points when the two have played together.
This doesn't make Higgins a bad Fantasy WR, but it does make reaching for him on Draft Day a potentially bad decision. He's worthy of a mid-Round 3 pick in PPR and a late Round 3 pick in non-PPR.
WR Tyler Boyd
Boyd might be unpopular because he's the elder statesman of the Bengals receiving corps, but the guy still averaged north of 10 PPR points per game for the fifth straight season. The problem is that his PPR average has declined five straight years, so it's hard to view him as even a decent receiver unless injuries befall other targets in the Cincy offense. Forty-six other receivers averaged more PPR points per game, and finding a receiver to get you 10 PPR points off waivers is usually not hard to do.
Boyd's role in the Bengals offense doesn't figure to get any bigger, but it should still mean a lot of snaps and targets in the slot. For that alone, he's worth grabbing for a bench spot with a pick in Round 13 or later.
Irwin probably won't matter to your Fantasy teams, but he might matter to the Bengals. Last year the savvy receiver and kick returner played 40% or more of the snaps in six of his last nine games and had four touchdowns on 15 catches. An increased role wouldn't be a surprise since he has experience lining up anywhere, but a big jump in stats would likely only happen if a teammate suffered an injury (maybe multiple teammates). You're better off leaving him on the waiver wire on Draft Day.
WR Charlie Jones
The top receiver at Purdue last season, Jones will battle for playing time in the Bengals offense this summer. He's unlikely to see the field much in 2023 since he played mostly as an outside receiver at Purdue, but perhaps there's a pathway to him contributing in a year or two. He's a crafty receiver with explosive speed and very good route running traits. He's just a little lean and has battled injuries in the past. Unlikely to get a sniff in seasonal leagues, Jones is at best a third-round choice in rookie-only drafts.
WR Andre Iosivas
Iosivas was a heptathlete at Princeton, setting an NCAA record in the 60-meter race. That might give you an idea of how fast Iosivas is, but blended with his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame, Iosivas has the potential to be a quality receiver in the NFL. At Princeton he lined up out wide and scored 12 times in his last 20 games with a 15.4 receiving average. He's unlikely to be a regular for the Bengals anytime soon, but he does have long-term potential as a raw prospect who needs some experience and coaching, not to mention some more power. You could consider him with a pick after 40th overall in rookie-only drafts.
TE Irv Smith Jr.
After three injury-plagued seasons in Minnesota, Smith will get a shot to put up big numbers in the Bengals offense. He's underwhelmed over his career, averaging a meek 9.4 yards per catch with nine touchdowns in 37 games. He's seen five or more targets just nine times, and he's never had more than 64 yards in a game.
The bottom line is that Smith is a touchdown-or-bust tight end in an offense with a number of quality targets at Joe Burrow's disposal. Smith isn't worth a draft pick but could be worth a look off waivers when faced with a good matchup this year.
As a rookie, McPherson finished third in Fantasy points per game. In 2022, he fell to 16th. What happened? It seems small but McPherson made four fewer field goals and two fewer extra points than the year before. That combined with a glut of kickers who were basically the same as far as points scored in 2022 pushed McPherson down. He still has averaged at least 8.0 points per game through two seasons and is among the more reliable field-goal kickers in the NFL. He's worth your last pick.
The Bengals offense? Outstanding. The Bengals defense? Rarely helpful for Fantasy purposes. In 2022 the squad totaled 30 sacks, 13 interceptions, 11 fumbles recovered and scored exactly one touchdown on defense (zero on special teams). About the only thing this unit did well was limiting opponents to 20.13 points per game, but that was in 16 games that included matchups against inferior offenses. Even a Week 1 matchup at Cleveland isn't enough to count on this DST, which lost both starting safeties from last year, to help you start the season strong. You may not want to even think about this DST until Week 5 against Arizona.