The Bengals have been the red-headed stepchild of the NFL with a constant streak of mediocrity outside of one season of overachieving by the majority of the staff — and especially QB Andy Dalton. They finished in the bottom half of the league in every metric last year and 26th overall in total yards per game with just 310.8. Granted, this was a team ravaged by injuries throughout the entire season and to its most influential players, nonetheless. Both Andy Dalton and A.J. Green had to be shut down, then key backup pieces and defensive cogs ended up injured as well.
Coming into 2019 the Bengals look to come out healthy and with a new sense of direction under a good offensive coordinator and riding the back of Joe Mixon, who proved to be everything advertised in limited situations last year. They are an interesting team from a fantasy perspective, and with how late the key pieces are being drafted, there’s a solid chance they could win some leagues if this team ends up surprising the rest of the league.
Editor’s Note: WR A.J. Green (ankle) is reportedly expected to miss 6-8 weeks.
2019 Fantasy MVP
Joe Mixon, Running BackMixon actually had a good 2018 even with a terrible supporting cast, and that’s something we need to pay attention to. They had few realistic opportunities to score and he still was able to find nine touchdowns on the year. His volume was fantastic with 237 rushing attempts and 43 receptions, which was tied for third on the team and helped him amass 1,464 total yards on the year.
He averaged a healthy 4.9 yards per carry on the ground — and that was with Jeff freakin’ Driskel at QB and the defense mostly teeing off on him. He’s a fantastic talent and somebody with the raw potential to be a true workhorse, which is something we are seeing less and less of in the modern NFL.
With the team coming back in 2019 in full health, defenses will have less chance to just stack the box and I think it leads to a huge year for Mixon, who is being drafted in the second round of season-long formats. Should he maintain his role as the workhorse (and all signs point to that happening), there’s a good chance we see him finish with upwards of 1,500 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards while upping his touchdowns. This would place him firmly in the conversation with Ezekiel Elliot and David Johnson.
2019 Fantasy LVP
John Ross, Wide ReceiverIt should be a better season for the Bengals overall, but a lot of that optimism comes from a healthy A.J. Green and a more rounded offensive scheme under a new offensive coordinator. This offense is not going to be able to maintain three relevant wide receivers, so with Green back and Tyler Boyd being a significantly more polished receiver than Ross, it seems to reason Ross is going to suck this year from a fantasy perspective.
I mean, he sucked in 2018 from an everything perspective with just 21 receptions for 210 yards on an offensive that had hardly any real options. For a guy who broke the record for a 40-yard dash his longest reception was just 39 yards, which is especially bad considering how little he played in the slot throughout the year. Ross is going to be relegated to three-wideout sets, which more than likely also will feature a healthy Tyler Eifert, who probably is still pretty good. Add in Mixon catching balls out of the backfield, and I’m ready to write-off Ross entirely for the 2019 season as the least valuable piece.
2019 Breakout Player
Tyler Boyd, Wide ReceiverEven with the Bengals having an atrocious year on offense in 2018, Boyd was able to thrive and achieve his first 1,000-yard season with 76 receptions for 1,028 yards. He only racked up seven touchdowns because the Bengals hardly were ever in a position to score and because he had to deal with Jeff Driskel for a portion of the season, but the 13.5 average yards per reception was healthy and what’s probably most important was his usage in the slot.
The reason that’s important is because it guarantees him a spot on the field with A.J. Green, who is primarily an outside WR. If we assume this offense is going to get better just based on health and unity in 2019, we also should be assuming better opportunities for the main wide receivers. Although I expect the volume to be down, I do expect him to retain most of it as he takes it from John Ross. If he can haul in 60-70 receptions and up his touchdowns a bit, Boyd is in position to cement himself as a fantastic secondary option in an offense riddled with talent and promise.
I’m kind of in on the Bengals as a dark-horse offense coming into 2019. There is a lot of talent on this team on the offensive side of the ball and with a change in coaching to multiple areas as well as a new offensive coordinator, things could click like they haven’t before. We have seen A.J. Green and Andy Dalton lead an offense before and now with Joe Mixon and a fantastic secondary wideout in Tyler Boyd, they could be in for a really good year.
Especially when you take the discount on the key pieces and the fact you can get Andy Dalton, like, last in drafts, it’s a really good time to buy in on this team and avoid the recency bias the rest of the industry has. This division is going through a regime change with the Steelers falling and the Browns coming up, so the Bengals have a chance to finish 9-7 or around there depending on how they play out of division, so don’t sleep on them and take some cheap shares.
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