Fantasy Opportunity Breakdown: Cincinnati Bengals

2019 Coaching Staff

After hanging onto the just-better-than-mediocre Marvin Lewis for what seemed like an eternity, the Bengals are finally cleaning house. The fact that it happened was expected (I think many Bengals fans would say overdue). The direction they went was not. While it is true that the current NFL coaching trend focuses on creative young minds who may not have so much experience, Cincinnati’s hire of Rams QB coach Zac Taylor took that philosophy to the extreme; Taylor has all of five games worth of pro-level offensive coordinator experience. For that matter, his coordinators aren’t exactly household names either; defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo served as the interim defensive coordinator on the same 2015 Dolphins squad that Taylor was offensive coordinator for, and Brian Callahan has never served as a coordinator at the pro level…or any level for that matter.

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What to Expect

With so little pro-level experience to draw from with the new coaching staff, it’s hard to say what we should expect from the Bengals. It’s almost a certainty that Taylor and Callahan will put their own spin on their scheme, but given that Taylor will hold play-calling duties it seems likely that the offense will be based on Sean McVay’s playbook. Don’t hold your breath for the same level of offense though; the Bengals have noticeable downgrades at almost every position on the offense, with the notable exception of A. J. Green.

While the offense may not be as effective as the Rams, they will likely be a higher volume offense. Anarumo will have his work cut out for him with a defense that just ranked dead last in the NFL in yards allowed and third worst in points allowed. He doesn’t have much talent to work with (outside of the defensive line) in his effort to improve it either. With all signs pointing to the defense struggling again, Taylor will likely run a bit more pass-heavy offense than his mentor McVay.

The Data

Assuming Taylor wants to emulate the Rams’ offense, it makes sense to take a look at what the Rams have been doing under McVay. In McVay’s first year as the Rams’ head coach, he called around a 55/45 pass/run split. This balance skewed a bit more pass-heavy in year two (up to a 57/43 split), but then that’s the difference between playing a 3rd place schedule and playing a 1st place schedule. The Bengals likely won’t have much defense to speak of – which will skew their play-calling a little more pass-heavy – but they will be playing a 4th place schedule. Also, while they might not have quite the same level of talent and depth as the Rams, they do have some blue chip pieces of their own; the 1-2 punch of Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard is not much of a downgrade from Gurley, and while Cincinnati can’t completely replicate the Kupp-Woods-Cooks/Watkins combo, they could do worse than A. J. Green and Tyler Boyd. It’s probably safe to say that the Bengals will only be a little more pass-happy than McVay’s year-one Rams, so we’re expecting around a 56/44 split.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals

The place where the depth concerns come in is determining positional target shares. The Rams have targeted their wide receivers a little more than 60% of the time under McVay. This is in no small part because the Rams’ base offense is 11 personnel with three wide receivers, but part of the reason they can play 11 personnel so frequently is that they’ve had three solid wideouts at all times. The Bengals have Green, Boyd…and that’s about it. The wide receiver target share should still go up a bit if Cincinnati does strive to emulate the Rams, but Cincinnati is more likely to give a few exotic looks given their strength at running back.

Fantasy Impact

There’s a lot of guesswork in trying to determine what the offense will look like under people with minimal experience designing offenses, but based on what we do know it will be based on Sean McVay’s Rams scheme. Implementing that offense could be a bit tricky given the difference in depth, not to mention the lack of defensive talent, so expect something akin to McVay’s scheme but leaning a little more pass-heavy.

Projected Team Rush Attempts: 440 Attempts
Projected Passing: 340 Completions on 525 Attempts, 35 sacks allowed
Projected WR Catches: 190 Receptions on 315 Targets
Projected RB Catches: 90 Receptions on 120 Targets
Projected TE Catches: 60 Receptions on 90 Targets

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