The 2020 NFL Season is nearly upon us, and in anticipation of the new season we’ll be previewing the action team-by-team, using the draft order from last season. The previews will kick off with the Bengals and run right through the reigning champion Chiefs. Come back each day to check out your favorite team. All ADP and Rankings reflect PPR scoring. 2020 Projections are based on a 12-team league (i.e. WR1 (Top 12), WR2 (13-24), WR3 (25-36))
Things didn’t go great for new coach Zac Taylor in his first season with the Cincinnati Bengals. Star quarterback Andy Dalton was benched, then put back in as the starter. Star running back Joe Mixon didn’t have a consistent season. And star receiver A.J. Green never even got on the field. The Bengals finished with a league-worst record of 2-14, losing 11 straight before getting their first win in December. It wasn’t the show Bengals fans were hoping for after hiring a coach who worked with Sean McVay and the Rams.
But the Bengals used the top pick to re-tool, and now the team is looking to rebound heading into the 2020 season. With new weapons, the return of familiar faces, and hopefully some better injury luck on the offensive line, the team will be looking to make a better showing in Taylor’s second year.
The Bengals bid farewell to some familiar faces as Dalton left to take a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys. He’ll likely be a backup to Dak Prescott there. The team also saw talented but oft-injured tight end Tyler Eifert head to Jacksonville. But they hung on to Green, who signed his Franchise Tender and will hopefully be able to make it on to the field in 2020. The team also scored big in the draft.
The Bengals used the top overall pick to snag LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who was huge in 2019 as he led the Tigers to a National Championship. Burrow was the Heisman Trophy winner, too, thanks to a season that saw him complete 76 percent of his passes for 5,671 yards, 60 TDs and just six INTs. He figures to be the starter from game one. The Bengals also snagged a receiver of the future in Tee Higgins. Higgins caught 59 passes each of his last two seasons for Clemson, adding 12 TDs in 2018 and 13 TDs in 2019. While he figures to be eased into the offense in 2020, he has a chance to grow alongside Burrow for years to come.
Burrow was a top pick in dynasty rookie drafts, especially in Superflex, but if you’re playing re-draft in 2020, his price tag feels too rich for me. I think he has a chance to be a low-end QB2 in 2020, but he’s more likely a QB3. Yet he’s currently going as QB17. If you’re a believer you try it, but he’s not worth the gamble to me. I do however think he’s an easy top QB pick for dynasty rookie drafts.
In the backfield, the Bengals are led by Mixon. Mixon was a top pick at the position in 2019, but running behind a makeshift line in an inefficient offense, he finished with just 1,137 yards and five TDs, running for just over four yards per carry. He did add 35 receptions for 287 yards and three more TDs, which helped him to an RB13 finish, but it was a disappointment for owners who took him as a solid RB1. But with a better offense overall, Mixon is still talented and figures to be the lead dog. He’s currently being drafted as RB7, which makes sense. He should be an RB1 in 2020. Behind him is Giovanni Bernard, who’s more of a change-of-pace and receiving back. He’s little more than an RB4 and handcuff.
Among receivers, the question is Green. He didn’t play a snap in 2019, but when he was there in 2018 he caught 46 passes for 694 yards and six TDs in just nine games. If he can get on the field, Green has WR2 upside. But I think he’s a WR3 for now. So, too, is teammate Tyler Boyd, who has a lot of talent and led the team in 2019. Boyd caught 90 passes for 1,046 yards and five TDs last year, but he’s likely to split that top work with Green, and the Bengals have a host of other receivers. He’s a high end WR3 for me. Higgins is a great snag in dynasty rookie drafts, but I think in 2020 he’ll fight for targets with Auden Tate and John Ross behind Green and Boyd. All three will have their moments, but none figures to be a consistent contributor if Green and Boyd stay health. I’m also not drafting any Bengals tight ends after Eifert left. C.J. Uzomah figures to be the starter, and last year’s second round pick Drew Sample is on the roster, but I don’t think either will be reliable for fantasy.
The Bengals weren’t a good team last year, but sometimes their offense was fun to watch. That will likely be the case in 2020 as well. I like the direction their trending with picks like Burrow and Higgins, but I think the Bengals will struggle with consistency and struggle to win a lot of games. The team is still likely fourth in their own division. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this re-build won’t be done in a year.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.