It’s after the Fourth of July, so it’s high time we turn our attention to fantasy football sleepers, breakouts, and busts for every NFL team. The ADP is per 4for4’s ADP data. We started with the AFC East, and we now move on to the AFC North. Will the Bengals ever move on from Joe Mixon? Why do people love Irv Smith, Jr. so much? Is Zac Taylor getting dragged along by Joe Burrow? We answer none of those questions, and more, with the Cincinnati Bengals’ sleeper, breakout, and bust!
Sleeper: Tyler Boyd, Wide Receiver (WR53, Pick 131 Overall)
This is a massive slam dunk, as he’s outpaced his ADP each of the last two seasons with Ja’Marr Chase on the roster. Per FantasyData.com, he went as WR41 off the board in 2021, and WR63 off the board in 2022. He splits the difference this year, going as WR53 off the board. But, it’s not about where he started each of the last two seasons, it’s about where he finished: WR30, and WR40. He finished as a player that belongs on every fantasy roster, and he went for free, in essence. Nobody learned their lessons and per the 4for4 ADP data, he is essentially free, yet again.
Boyd also contains hidden potential, if one of Chase or Tee Higgins misses time. Over the last two seasons when one of them misses time, he averages 12.6 PPR points per game, on 7 targets, 4.6 receptions, 56 yards, and 0.4 touchdowns per game. The 12.6 PPR points per game put him 0.1 PPG shy of Garrett Wilson’s output last season.
Breakout: Chase Brown, Running Back (No ADP Data Available)
I’m of the firm opinion that the Joe Mixon Experiment is going to end, sooner or later, in Cincinnati. The only question is if they bring in one of the myriad of running back options on the market. This is a tenuous breakout, but I don’t believe in Irv Smith, so this is where we end up by default. Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt (okay maybe not Kareem Hunt) or Dalvin Cook could all easily blow this up.
But, the Bengals’ took the rookie back with pick 163 off the board, and he’s set up to take the type of abuse that the Bengals heaped on Joe Mixon in his time in the league. Illinois ran the football with him as much as humanly possible, giving him 44 touches in one game last season, 328 rush attempts, and 27 receptions across 12 games last season. That’s not a typo. He touched the football 350 times last year. That’s the type of back that makes the Bengals sit up and take notice, and if they shed Joe Mixon’s turbulent off-field issues, he could step into that “run this guy into the ground” role immediately.
Bust: Irv Smith, Jr., Tight End (TE15, Pick 128 Overall)
Sorry to everyone on Fantasy Twitter, but to put this in language that Twitter will understand, Irv Smith is #notgood, and neither is his situation. He is an annual hype candidate despite never really doing anything to justify that hype. Even if you give him the most beneficial look possible (pro-rating his 2022 campaign to seventeen games), he still came out with just 88 targets, 62 receptions, 476 yards, and six touchdowns. Again, that’s if you take his most beneficial split—and if you skip his 2 targets and zero catches in week one in that calculation. Toss in week one and that drops to 53 catches, 408 yards, and 5 touchdowns over the course of a season. He’s never done anything to deserve the hype.
He’s also going to a situation where, if everything breaks right for him, he can elevate to being the third-best option on the Bengals in the passing game. And “if everything breaks right for him” I mean season-ending injuries to two of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon (or whichever back ends up there). This is a pattern for the Bengals, who straight-up don’t use their tight end since Joe Burrow came to town, giving the position the fifth-fewest, fourth-fewest, and fourth-fewest targets over the last three seasons. They straight-up don’t pass to the position, averaging just 14.4% of targets to tight ends over the last few years. For the position to get more than 100 targets at that rate, Joe Burrow would need to throw the football 700 times.