When it comes to fantasy football, the Cincinnati Bengals defense is overlooked and highly underestimated.
Most of the intrigue from Cincinnati’s offseason has surrounded the offense. This is to be expected when a team has a superstar potential young quarterback and what is to be expected one of the best receiving cores in the NFL. Because of this, it is not a surprise that the defense might fly under the radar. But to this extent?
It is somewhat understandable. When it comes to DVOA (defense adjusted value over average) and Pro Football Focus defensive 2020 rankings, the Bengals ranked 27th and 23rd respectively. Not good. But instead of seeing an improvement, the fantasy football experts are predicting the defense will be even worse. This should not be the case.
At CBS Sports, their Senior fantasy writers, Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings have the Bengals defense ranked 28th, 29th, and 29th respectively. The Fantasy Footballers lists the Bengals 30th in their rankings. Tommy Garrett at Pro Football Network has the Bengals defense ranked 30th as well. At Fantasy Pros, they have the Bengals ranked 32nd, or in other words, dead last.
Our good friends over at Pro Football Focus simply describes the Bengals defense as “meh” while touting an improved offense. Ian Hartitz writes,
"Burrow led the NFL in dropbacks prior to getting hurt and was the fantasy QB14 for his troubles. The addition of Ja’Marr Chase and (hopeful) progression across the offensive line makes the 2019 Heisman winner worthy of the Year 2 hype, particularly from a pure volume perspective since the Bengals defense figures to again be meh."
The Bengals signed seven notable free agents with six of them being defensive players. They drafted four defensive players, all of whom have one sole purpose, to pressure the quarterback. All are guys who can be used in multiple ways to bring down the quarterback. Each of whom you can reasonably expect to make the final 53.
That is a total of 10 new defensive players. Half of which will be deployed to seek and destroy the opposing team’s quarterback. And this does not include the young players who are still developing and can take a step next year like Khalid Kareem, Akeem Davis-Gaither, and Germaine Pratt.
Not to mention the undervalued players in the secondary such as Darius Phillips and Mike Hilton who Stripe Hype’s own Justin Fried calls one of Cincinnati’s best kept secrets. Also, you can count on arguably the league’s best safety, Jessie Bates to add points to your Bengals’ fantasy defense.
Speaking of the secondary, Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders lists the 2020 Bengals as one of the best coverage teams despite not having much pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Everyone should expect more pressure from the Bengals defense this year. If that holds true, the secondary will prove to be even better.
Yes, the Bengals were last in sacks and sack yards last year. Hopefully free-agent acquisition Trey Hendrickson can come close to that by himself.
The Bengals also gave up the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL last year. Look for that to dramatically improve with a healthy D.J. Reader returning and the addition of fourth-round draft pick, defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin.
Something else that should not be overlooked is the addition of defensive line coach Marion Hobby. As local sports contributor, Russ Heltman points out on Twitter, Hobby should be a great addition to this coaching staff.
Year three under Lou Anarumo, injured players returning, a good mix of veteran and versatile young players and a new defensive line coach with a history of success should not mean a worse defense than in 2020. Furthermore, with an improved offense, hopefully the defense will spend more time on the sideline and be put in less precarious positions than they were last year.
Based on the rankings of fantasy experts, you should absolutely expect for the Bengals defense to surprise fantasy gurus.
Bengals fans who play fantasy, do you agree with the team having a bottom of the league defense heading into the 2021 season? Are you yourself going to put down money and draft the Bengals defense in your league?
Either way, we should all hope and expect that these rankings remain fantasy and come nowhere close to reality.