A 4-11-1 record earned the Cincinnati Bengals the fifth pick in the draft later this month. But there’s more than meets they eye there. Five of those losses came by five points or less, and they found a quarterback in Joe Burrow. Burrow also missed the final six games with a knee injury, and the team went 2-4 without him.
The AFC North will remain a competitive division in 2021, and the Bengals are probably another year away from real playoff contention. But they are a team on the rise. The draft later this month will offer an opportunity to further fortify the roster with young talent.
Regardless of what they do in the draft, the Bengals have upgraded Burrow’s pass protection with signing of Riley Reiff in free agency. That had to be the top priority this offseason, lest they push Burrow down the David Carr-Houston Texans path of taking a physical pounding, never to recover. Burrow was pressured on a league-high 32.3 percent of his drop backs last season.
Burrow is expected to be ready to go for Week 1.
That’s been the goal for me from the beginning,” Burrow said. “They say it’s a 9-12 month recovery and the first game is exactly nine months from my injury. There’s obviously a long road ahead and there’s opportunities for setbacks along the road, but as far as right now, it’s looking as good as it could for where I’m at in the rehab process.”
Here three very early bold predictions for the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft.
3 Super Early Bold Predictions For Joe Burrow In 2021
3. Top-5 In Passing Yards
Burrow played most of the game he was injured in last year (Week 11 against Washington), so the full picture is possible. In those 10 games, he averaged just shy of 269 yards per game. That projects out to 4,304 yards over 16 games, which would’ve been good seventh in the league last year.
Betting on an improved situation, full health (for him and everyone; paging Joe Mixon) and perhaps another weapon at his disposal (via the 5th pick or not), Burrow is lined up to finish in the top-5 of the league in passing yards.
2. League Leader In Pass Attempts
This time, I’ll narrow to Burrow’s nine full games. He had 370 attempts in those games, an average of 41 attempts per game (41.1, technically). Multiply that by 16, and you get (rounding up) to 658 pass attempts. Last year’s league leader, Matt Ryan, had 626 attempts and only two others (Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger) topped 600 attempts. Two more (Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes) would have gotten to 600 if they had played at least a substantial part of all 16 games.
The Bengals defense might be better in 2021, but a glance at the depth chart right now says probably not that much better. So Burrow will still be airing it out plenty. Even a drop from last year’s pace could yield the most attempts in the league by a fair margin.
1. Top-10 Fantasy Quarterback
With his six missed games, Burrow came in at QB25 in fantasy as a rookie. But if you narrow to per game, and to quarterbacks who played at least 10 games, he was QB16. From Week 1-Week 8 (eight games), he was QB9 in fantasy with five 300-plus yard passing games over that span.
Projecting Burrow’s per game average to 16 games, he would have finished as QB13 in fantasy last year (less than eight points shy of QB12-Matt Ryan). The step from there to top-10 is not a steep one, provided Burrow is good to for Week 1. I thought about going all-in and saying he’d finish as a top-5 fantasy quarterback in 2021, but I’ll settle at top-10 instead.