The early part of training camp was not kind to the Cincinnati Bengals – at least on the surface.
Quarterback Joe Burrow – easily of the 5 best players at his position in the NFL – pulled up with a strained calf muscle, started limping and was carted off the field.
It may have looked like a disaster, but Burrow and the Bengals will survive and most likely thrive. Burrow does not need training camp to be successful in the 2023 season. He is a dynamic and accurate passer with more than enough athleticism, arm strength and accuracy.
Burrow will be able to employ all his strengths when the regular-season gets underway September 10 against the Cleveland Browns, and he won’t have limitations.
Missing time in training camp is nothing new for Burrow, as he missed three weeks last year as a result of an appendectomy. He responded with a brilliant season that included 35 TD passes and 4,475 passing yards.
Burrow will be a Fantasy star once again.
Running back Joe Mixon
Mixon, 27, is entering his 7th year in the NFL, and that’s when league executives worry about running backs who have been stars in the league.
Running backs have the shortest shelf life of any fantasy players, and Mixon is not immune to the aging process. After dynamic rushing totals in two of his first three seasons, the last 3 seasons has seen him struggle with his rushing totals in 2020 and 2022.
He ran for 814 yards and 7 touchdowns with a 3.9 yards per carry average last season, and those numbers are all likely to go down in 2023.
While Mixon still has a lot of value because he has been a frequent receiving target, he is more of a safety valve when Burrow throws to him than a big-play threat.
Mixon looks like a Fantasy disappointment in 2023
Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase
Chase has a wonderful working relationship with Burrow, as the two continue the partnership that opened eyes during their college careers at Louisiana State.
Chase has had two brilliant seasons for the Bengals, and he should be extremely motivated as he prepares for his opportunity to be the best receiver on a Super Bowl-caliber team. That’s the realistic goal for the Bengals and look for Chase to knock it out of the ballpark.
As good as Chase is, his former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson has exceeded him in the NFL. That should motivate him to put together his best season in the NFL. Chase caught 87 passes for 1,046 yards and 7 touchdowns a year ago, and the expectations are that he will exceed those figures.
Look for Chase to reach 95-1,250-12 in 2023, and he will be a Fantasy star this season
Wide receivers Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins
The Bengals are loaded at the wide receiver slot, and both Boyd and Higgins are excellent complementary receivers for the Bengals. While Chase is clearly the best on the team, Burrow and head coach Zac Taylor knows that Boyd simply will not drop the ball while Higgins has the speed and quickness to torch opposing defenses.
The belief is that Boyd will be the more dependable of the two, and he will exceed the numbers he put on the board last year when he caught 58-762-5.
This is not a knock on Higgins, who should be able to match the 74-1,029-7 he caught last year.
Both Boyd and Higgins will be solid Fantasy assets in 2023.
TE Irv Smith Jr.
Smith looked like a sure star when the Minnesota Vikings drafted him in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He had the size, strength, athleticism and long arms to be a consistent playmaker.
However, he has not developed into a star or even a consistently productive player at this point. The Vikings traded for T.J. Hockenson of the Lions because they no longer believed in Smith.
The Bengals are going to give him a shot, but we don’t see Smith suddenly finding the motivation and taking advantage of his opportunity.
He caught 25 passes for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns last year, and he will struggle once again.
Smith will be a Fantasy bust in 2023.
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