Even the most optimistic Bengals fans probably didn't see them making a Super Bowl run in Joe Burrow's first season back from his torn ACL, so expectations are quite a bit higher heading into this season. Given the team's youth, a big step backward would be a big disappointment, though there are reasons to think last year's success wasn't quite sustainable.
Record: 10 - 7 (9)
PPG: 27.1 (7)
YPG: 361.5 (13)
Pass YPG: 259.0 (7)
Rush YPG: 102.5 (23)
PAPG: 32.6 (20)
RAPG: 25.6 (19)
2021 Fantasy finishes
Number to know: 555
That's how many passes the Bengals threw last season, just the 20th most in the league. Given that Burrow finished as QB7 despite missing a game and being on a relatively run-heavy offense, he was obviously one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league. In fact, he may have been the most efficient quarterback in the league, ranking first in yards per attempt at 8.9 and third in touchdown rate at 6.5%.
Obviously, playing in an offense with dynamic playmakers like Chase and Higgins helps, and Chase's ability to break big plays in seemingly any circumstance played a huge role -- the rookie had six plays go for at least 50 yards, five of them for touchdowns. Burrow had 12 completions go for at least 50 yards with eight touchdowns on those 12 completions, both of which led the league -- Matthew Stafford was the only QB with more than seven passes of 50-plus yards or four such touchdowns. Those weren't just the best numbers in the league last season, though -- Burrow is also one of just two QB with as many as eight touchdowns of 50-plus yards in the past five seasons, while no QB at least in the past decade had as many completions of that length.
Which is to say, we probably shouldn't expect a repeat of the kind of efficiency Burrow enjoyed last season, so he'll probably need an increase in volume to make up for it. That's not unreasonable to expect, but it's not a sure thing -- Burrow did pass more often in their playoff run, but the increase from 32.5 to 35.5 attempts per game probably isn't enough.
0 carries, 0 RB targets, 15 WR targets, 63 TE targets
Chris Towers' projections
|QB||Joe Burrow||PA: 593, YD: 4330, TD: 33, INT: 13; RUSH -- ATT: 38, YD: 132, TD: 2|
|RB||Joe Mixon||CAR: 264, YD: 1110, TD: 11, TAR: 47, REC: 42, YD: 317, TD: 1|
|RB||Samaje Perine||CAR: 64, YD: 276, TD: 3, TAR: 24, REC: 21, YD: 155, TD: 1|
|WR||Ja'Marr Chase||TAR: 158, REC: 101, YD: 1212, TD: 9|
|WR||Tee Higgins||TAR: 161, REC: 105, YD: 1099, TD: 8|
|WR||Tyler Boyd||TAR: 110, REC: 66, YD: 831, TD: 6|
|TE||Hayden Hurst||TAR: 71, REC: 50, YD: 523, TD: 3|
Do the Bengals pivot to a pass-first offense?
Joe Burrow is being taken as the No. 4 QB in drafts as of publication, which is pretty optimistic after he finished as QB8 in points per game last season. Of course, expecting improvement from a young, talented QB isn't unreasonable, but the Bengals probably need to pass more for Burrow to make a leap to that tier given Burrow's limited utility as a runner. They did throw more down the stretch, but Burrow averaged 35.5 pass attempts per game in four playoff games, which would still be pretty middling. The weapons are certainly in place, but Burrow could disappoint Fantasy players unless this becomes a much more aggressive offense overall.
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One sleeper, one breakout and one bust
Hurst hasn't broken out in the way we hoped since being a first-round pick in 2018, and at 29 by Week 1, he's running out of time. But he might find himself in the best position he's ever been in his career, playing with an elite QB alongside the kind of weapons defenses have to focus on. That situation led to career-best marks of 49-493-5 for C.J. Uzomah a year ago, so if Hurst can build on that, there's room for him to be a useful streaming option for Fantasy.
Higgins' season-long numbers already look pretty awesome, but he was even better once he got past a shoulder issue that cost him two of the first four games. From Week 12 on, Higgins had at least 96 yards in seven of 10 games, including the playoffs, with six touchdowns -- a 94-catch, 1,621-yard, 10-touchdown pace. Chase is the headliner of this offense, but we've seen flashes from Higgins that suggest he could also be one of the very best receivers in Fantasy. If you're expecting this passing game to be even better than it was a year ago, Higgins is likely to take another step forward.
It probably depends on who you are drafting with, but Burrow is currently the No. 4 QB in ADP in National Fantasy Championship drafts as of June 21, nearly a full round ahead of Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray and even more ahead of Dak Prescott and Matthew Stafford. It's a bet on a No. 1 pick with elite weapons coming off a breakout season, but as I've already detailed, there are plenty of reasons to bet on regression in 2022. Burrow should be good, but he isn't much of a runner, so if the Bengals are going to be around the middle of the pack in pass attempts again, you're making a bet on him being an Aaron Rodgers'-level efficiency outlier every year. He may just be that, but that's an awfully lofty comp. And if the passing volume does increase dramatically ... he's probably the fourth-best QB in Fantasy. This means you're drafting him close to his ceiling.