Before explaining why targeting Cincinnati Bengals players in your draft could be a league-winning strategy, let’s quickly talk about why it makes sense to invest time and effort into predicting the 2021 breakout offenses.
Broadly speaking, players who greatly outproduce their fantasy ADP fall into one of two categories:
- They earn a much bigger role in their team’s offense than expected, either due to injury (Mike Davis) or generally exceeding expectations (Justin Jefferson).
- The player’s role is as expected, but the overall offense outperforms expectations, leading to a bigger fantasy pie (Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs).
The focus of this series of articles is on the second category of players. Our goal is to predict the offenses with the best shot to massively exceed expectations in 2021. If we can do so, league winners can be found.
In recent seasons, approximately three NFL teams each year have scored at least 33% more points than they did the previous season (13 teams total over the last four years). Most of these huge jumps in offensive production were unexpected and led to the key players on these teams massively outperforming their fantasy ADP. A draft-day focus on these teams was a league-winning strategy.
Look no further than the 2020 Buffalo Bills as an example:
- Buffalo went from scoring 19.6 PPG in 2019 to 29.9 in 2020, an improvement of 10.3 points per game.
- Josh Allen was being drafted in Round 8 as the QB10. He finished as the QB1 with nearly 5,000 total yards and 45 total touchdowns.
- Stefon Diggs was going off the board in Round 5 as the WR21. He finished as the WR3 with 127 catches for 1,535 yards.
- In Week 16, the duo of Allen (35.5) and Diggs (41.5) combined for 77 fantasy points (PPR), virtually guaranteeing a fantasy championship if you drafted both and made the finals.
Focus on Talented Young Quarterbacks
Many of the 13 teams in the last four seasons that made huge offensive strides did so largely due to a young quarterback making the leap to elite.
Allen was a league-winner and the overall QB1 last year, but he is far from the only young quarterback to make the leap in recent years:
- In 2019, Lamar Jackson lapped the field and finished well ahead of the pack as the QB1. He was being drafted as the QB10 in Round 8 going into the year.
- In 2018, Patrick Mahomes II finished as the QB1, over 60 points ahead of the closest competition. He was being drafted as the QB15 in Round 10.
While Allen, Jackson, and Mahomes are the best recent examples of young quarterbacks unexpectedly exploding into fantasy superstars, there have been several other young quarterbacks who led their teams to big year-over-year scoring improvements. Jared Goff in 2017, Baker Mayfield in 2018, and Kyler Murray in 2019 led their offense to at least 50% more points than the previous season.
None of the three young quarterbacks who finished as fantasy QB1 were drafted higher than QB10 going into their breakout seasons.
All About Burrow
While we will discuss some other factors that point to the Bengals as a prime candidate for an offensive explosion in 2021, the main reason we should be targeting Bengals in our fantasy drafts is Joe Burrow. We should be looking for young quarterbacks being drafted outside of that top tier (Burrow’s ADP is QB12) who have the pedigree, surrounding pieces, and skill set to become an elite fantasy performer. Burrow checks every box.
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