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Fantasy Football Breakouts, Busts, and Locks - Cincinnati Bengals 2022 Outlook

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Welcome to our fantasy football Breakouts, Busts, and Locks, a series on RotoBaller where our writers look at three key players on each NFL team. Today, we're talking about the Cincinnati Bengals.

The defending AFC champions are returning most of their 2021 offense, and their starters at skill positions are locked in. Their passing targets were concentrated with 61.5% in the hands of their top three receivers. They drafted three defensive backs, a defensive lineman, and an offensive lineman.

The ninth-ranked scoring offense will likely improve after improving its offensive line in free agency, too. Hayden Hurst does come in at tight end, but he won't get enough targets to be a top-12 tight end. Where to look for a breakout team whose stars have already broken out?

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best NFL Series, MLB Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Fantasy Football Breakout: Chris Evans

The Bengals do have a possible riser in second-year running back Chris Evans. Evans has a good chance to supplant Samaje Perine as the third-down back. Compared to Perine, Evans is much more dynamic. He’s someone who can make plays as a receiver in addition to blocking well.

Evans outperformed Perine in most metrics last season: YAC per reception, the average depth of target, QB rating when targeted, broken tackles, PFF run blocking grade, and PFF overall offensive grade. Perine is in the final year of his contract, and the Bengals look like they will be moving on.

In terms of pass-catching, Evans is far superior. He recorded 2.32 yards per route run compared with 1.20 for Perine. Evans was utilized in the slot or wide at a rate twice as often as Perine when he was on the field.

Fantasy players are taking note. His ADP on Underdog has risen from 212 in mid-June to 202 by mid-July. That means he’s going as the #62 RB, ahead of the Raiders’ Zamir White, Miami’s Sony Michel, Tennessee’s Hassan Haskins, and Cleveland’s D’Ernest Johnson. In managed leagues, keep your eyes on Evans as a waiver wire pickup or draft him late as a handcuff depending on the size of the league.

 

Fantasy Football Bust: Joe Burrow

Joe Cool is a classic example of a playmaking, big-game-winning elite real-life quarterback who is being overdrafted in fantasy football on the basis of his well-earned popularity. He might be the fourth-best quarterback in the league (his ADP in Sleeper drafts). He’s a better QB than Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray, Matthew Stafford, Lamar Jackson, and Jalen Hurts.

But Prescott and Murray both play in offenses that ranked in the top-five in the pace of play the past two seasons. The Rams ranked 10th in Stafford’s first season with Sean McVay. Jackson and Hurts both have the kind of rushing upside that could put them ahead of Burrow.

Zac Taylor has never run his offense with that kind of pace. Even if Burrow were to get more passing opportunities next season with a better offensive line in front of him, his efficiency will likely regress after he led the league in yards per pass attempt. In June, Burrow said at a press conference, “We just gotta be more consistent and not rely on those big plays as much. Teams are going to be playing 2-high and making us check the ball down and all that.”

For Burrow to be a top-four fantasy quarterback, he would have to throw many more passes and maintain his extremely high efficiency. Even then he doesn’t show much upside over his mid-first round (standard leagues)/fifth round (full and half PPR) ADP.

 

Fantasy Football Lock: Ja’Marr Chase

The last rookie receiver to exceed 1,400 yards his rookie year saw his receptions and yards decrease significantly in Year Two, never again broke 1,000 yards after his third season, then was out of the league five years later. Speaking, of course, of Bill Groman, who played left end for the Oilers, Broncos, and Bills of the AFL from 1960 to 65.

But everyone who did over 1,100 since 1998 is a good precedent for Chase. That’s Randy Moss, Anquan Boldin, Odell Beckham Jr., Michael Thomas, and Justin Jefferson. Four-out-of-five of them would increase their yardage totals the next season. (Anquan Boldin, who was injured and his yards per reception take a hit, would go on to have six 1,000-yard seasons the rest of his career).

What else is there to say? He’s an unstoppable force playing for a high-powered offense with an elite quarterback and most of its starters returning.



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