The Cincinnati Bengals are struggling so far in the 2017 season. After Falling to 0-3, there hasn’t been much to praise. In the first two weeks, the Bengals’ offense looked dreadful. However, there’s positivity on the horizon with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor calling plays. The first thing that stood out to me in a week 3 game against the Green Bay Packers was Lazor’s use of Joe Mixon. The rookie runner saw as many touches in week 3 as he did in weeks 1 and 2 combined. Today I want to discuss why I think Mixon’s usage will continue to increase and his fantasy numbers may soon resemble his fellow rookie running backs.
First Two Weeks
Stats: 21 touches, 65 total yards, 6.5 fantasy points
In week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens, the Bengals running backs accounted for 75 yards on the ground and 127 yards in total. Joe Mixon led the committee of running backs with 8 carries but only amounted 9 rushing yards. Bernard carried the ball 7 times and Hill 6 times to collectively gain 66 yards rushing. Andy Dalton was a mess and threw four interceptions and lost one fumble during this game. The Bengals failed to score and were required to throw for a majority of the game, which hindered the usage of Mixon and Hill. Joe Mixon played in 22 offensive snaps while Bernard played in 29 and Hill played in 10
In week 2 the Bengals finally managed to score points, but none of them were touchdowns. Cincinnati’s crowded backfield failed to feature one player for the second week in a row. The trio’s usage was split quite evenly as Mixon carried the ball 9 times, Hill carried 6 times and Bernard carried 5 times. This time, Mixon was the leading rusher with 36 yards but again the offense played poorly against a good Houston Texans’ defense. After these performances, Ken Zampese was fired and Bill Lazor was named the new offensive coordinator. In this week, Mixon played in 16 snaps and Hill played in 15. Bernard was the main runner who was used in 33 offensive snaps.
Increased Usage (Week Three)
Stats: 21 touches, 101 total yards, 10.1 fantasy points
In week 3 the Bengals’ offense looked alive again. They were hitting on all cylinders which led to an impressive fantasy performance from AJ Green, and a scoring total everyone expected to see from Joe Mixon at the start of the season. Lazor established a feature role in the backfield that focused on Mixon. He played 34 snaps for the offense compared to Bernard’s 13 and Hill’s 14. He utilized those snaps for 18 rushing attempts for 62 yards and added 3 receptions for 39 yards, without a score. Giovanni Bernard was the beneficiary of the first touchdown by a Bengals’ running back in 2017 on a 6-yard touchdown reception. As Lazor gets more comfortable with Mixon as his primary runner, he will continue to provide touches for him in the offense. I suspect Mixon will also take targets away from Bernard as the season progresses.
Upcoming Matchup (@CLE)
Projection: 112 total yards, 1 TD, 17.2 fantasy points.
Joe Mixon will face the Cleveland defense that has been relatively stingy on running backs thus far in fantasy football. They held LeVeon Bell to 47 total yards at home in Week 1 but have allowed three touchdowns to running backs in the last two weeks. The Ravens took advantage of rookie Deshone Kizer’s mistakes in week 2 which led to Buck Allen totaling 17.1 fantasy points. Terrance West also added 10.6 points of his own. They are currently giving up 11.47 fantasy points per game to running backs. If the Bengals offense can be effective on the road as they were in Green Bay, then Mixon may be able to find the end zone for the first time in his young, NFL career.
As this offense continues to grow, Mixon will continue to dominate rushing attempts. Bernard will be a change of pace player that may steal some touches from Mixon in the passing game. However, if the offense continues to look as good as it did against the Packers, there should be plenty of games where they lean on Mixon to take time off the clock. I think his style of play will be similar to Dalvin Cook’s in Minnesota. It’ll be tough to project his receptions while Giovanni Bernard sits behind him on the roster, therefore I believe he will be a considered a low-end RB2 or flex option for the time being. If his volume continues to increase, I believe he will eventually establish himself as an every-week RB2.
Any questions comments or concerns? Be sure to follow me on twitter @DJFezler_TFR if you have any fantasy questions throughout the season.