by Andrew Teuscher
Joe Burrow: Burrow is coming into 2022 after having a breakout season that made him a household name. The Bengals QB was able to succeed not just because of his own talent, but because there were studs all over his offense. Cincinnati is loaded with other fantasy stars like Jamar Chase, Tee Higgins, and Joe Mixon. Burrow finished last year as the QB8 and the Bengals just improved their offensive line including adding a shutdown left tackle. Despite Burrows's wild popularity, there are some concerns that should temper expectations. For starters, he has no rushing upside. This does not mean Burrow cannot finish top 10 but it does mean he’ll have to improve on his performance last year when he threw for 4,611 yds and 34 tds to justify his Underdog QB7 and 5th round ADP. Mobile QBs don’t have to put up as gaudy throwing numbers. Additionally, he is playing on a good team that should not find themselves having to play catch up in many games. They ranked 24th in plays per game in 2021. Zac Taylor wants a balanced offense that features the run game. All of this is to say that Burrow is most likely going to be a top 10 QB in 2022, but he would have to have one of the greatest passing seasons of all time to sniff the top 3 at the end of the year. His Super Bowl appearance and Joe “Shiesty” persona have pushed him up too high in drafts, but in all fairness, it’s just fun to root for this guy!
Joe Mixon: Joe Mixon is in one of the best situations out of any back in the NFL. He is one of the few true 3 down, workhorse backs in the NFL and he plays in an offense that should have a lot of scoring opportunities. Head coach Zac Taylor is determined to run the ball and have a balanced offense. The Bengals have a few tough games but they rank 26th in strength of schedule for 2022. The Bengals were good last year and improved their team over the offseason including greatly improving their offensive line that was in the bottom 10 in the NFL last year according to PFF. They should be ahead in games and lean on Mixon to close out games. Mixon plays in what will be a top 10 offense, is involved in the passing game, is a goal-line back, now has an O-line to play behind, and oh ya he’s just flat out good at football. Mixon is a surefire RB1 assuming he’s healthy.
Ja’Marr Chase: Remember people not drafting Chase because he dropped a few footballs in training camp? Ya, that won’t happen this year. Chase put up one of the best rookie WR seasons in NFL history and finished as the WR5. Rookie WRs are not supposed to finish in the top 5. Now Chase is entering year two where we typically see receivers take their leap into dominance. There is certainly a chance that Chase slightly regresses from a season when he had 1,455 yds and 13 tds, but there is also a chance he somehow gets better. People thought Justin Jefferson couldn’t repeat what he did his rookie season but he improved. He certainly has the QB play and now a new and improved offensive line that could help him repeat his dominance. Fantasy players are certainly buying into the hype considering his Underdog ADP is 5th overall. It is hard to poke holes in their thinking though. Jamar Chase is good at football and has a QB who literally said he’ll just turn and chuck it to him. Chase is a top 3 fantasy receiver coming into 2022.
Tee Higgins: Higgins is one of the more interesting options in fantasy. Everyone knows about Jamar Chase and people commonly view Higgins as the second option in the Bengal's passing game. This might be true in 2022 but at least last year Higgins received a higher target share than Chase. It is rare but Chase and Higgins might just split WR1 workloads and account for 50% of all targets in the Bengals offense. Their target shares were a combined 47.6% last year. Even if Higgins cannot get a ton of volume, he has excellent efficiency to make up for it. He has the talent of a WR1 but teams cannot defend him like one because Jamar Chase might get a 75-yard TD at any moment. Higgins has a great QB and is super talented. This adds up to fantasy success and it did last season too. Higgins was the WR12 in ppg (half-ppr). Higgins will have to keep performing on the field as a top-level talent to be great for fantasy but all signs show that he should repeat last year's success. Higgins is a high-end WR2 for 2022 with the potential to be a WR1 if the Bengals decide to unleash Burrow.
Tyler Boyd: The biggest loser from the emergence of Jamar Chase is Tyler Boyd. Boyd has been a WR2 in fantasy before while catching passes from QBs much worse than Joe Burrow. His college profile, draft capital, and on-field performance say he’s actually quite talented. The issue is that the Bengals have an embarrassment of riches at the WR position and only so many targets to go around. The slot receiver will still have his weeks where he's able to put up his own top 15 performances because he still received 18.6% of targets last year, but those games will occur much less than Higgins and Chase. Still, if you want a piece of what will be a great offense Boyd is certainly the cheapest option that still has relevance. He was the WR31 last year. I’d expect another near repeat of that performance coming into 2022. He’s a very safe WR4 on any fantasy team and certainly has a bump up in full-ppr leagues where he could be seen as a back-end WR3.
Hayden Hurst: Hayden Hurst is a great sleeper TE to take late in drafts in 2022. In fantasy football, you want pieces of good offenses. When trying to find late-round TEs you want to find guys that have the best chances of finding the endzone. It also helps if those guys are talented. Well, Hayden Hurst has all of those factors working for him in 2022. Hurst was drafted in the first round which proves he is at least talented. He has also been a top 10 TE before in 2020. The worry is that a lot of the pieces of the pie in the Cincinnati passing game have already been claimed. There are targets to claim, however. CJ Uzomah left the Bengals to go to the Jets and now the more talented Hayden Hurst can easily step in and absorb all of his 12% target share. That is not a ton of work but we’re talking about Hurst who is being taken as the TE24 currently in Underdog drafts. He is at least worth the flier if he can be better in the same role that made Uzomah the TE16 last year. Hurst will have to get lucky and find himself in the endzone to be a TE1 but he is set up to do so. Take Hurst with your last pick or even pick him up off waivers if you are the type of manager who punts TE.
Andrew Teuscher is a fantasy-football enthusiast and certified fantasy try hard.