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Fantasy Football Beyond The Box Scores 2023 Retrospective: Cincinnati Bengals

Ted takes a look back at the most important stats and stories from the Bengals’ 2023 season.

Welcome back Beyond the Box Scores! If you’re looking to kill some time because you called in sick and then realized there are no March Madness games today, I recommend watching the women’s tournament … but if one of those games isn’t close, then this article should be a great way to kill some time (and hopefully improve your 2024 fantasy football chances). Let’s get started.

Ground Rules: Check out the first edition here for a full explanation of what’s going on. All scoring is Half-PPR, Week 18 stats are not included (so a full season is 16 games), and only players currently being drafted in the top 200 of Underdog Best Ball drafts are covered.  


Joe Burrow

The Box Scores

  • Total Points: 153.2; QB25
  • Games Played: 12
  • Points Per Game: 15.3; QB25

Beyond The Box Scores

  • Full Games Played: 9
  • Points Per Full Game: 16.1; QB24
  • Full Games Played Starting Week 5: 5
  • Points Per Full Game After Week 5: 22.2; QB3

Burrow is officially the first player to have not one but two special Beyond the Box Scores splits. And, to be honest, the second split is the kind of split I usually try to avoid, as it is more or less arbitrarily picked to only contain a small sample of Burrow’s best games. In defense of that split, it was clear to anyone with eyes that Joe Burrow was not himself for the first few games of the season thanks to a calf injury. However, even after he got healthy, things were not entirely business as usual for Burrow in 2023. Even if we just look at his games after Week 5, his 7.1 ADOT was easily the lowest of his career so far and ranked 39th of 45 qualified QBs for the season. I also have a few quibbles with other parts of Burrow’s profile: He has ranked eighth, fourth, 11th, and 17th in pressure-to-sack rate over the last four years. But sacks don’t count for negative fantasy points, and it’s very hard to argue with the fact that Burrow was putting up elite fantasy numbers before he went down for the season with a wrist injury.


Given that he put up top-three numbers over the last five games before his injury, Burrow’s QB7 ADP may seem like a bargain. But looking at the names ahead of him, I’m not particularly offended by his ranking. Unlike many of the players being drafted above him, Burrow doesn’t add much value with his legs; that combined with his lowered 2023 ADOT means he will need huge volume to put up elite numbers (he averaged an absurd 39 pass attempts over that five-week stretch I keep citing — we saw a similar level of volume turn Joe Flacco into a fantasy superstar for a similar number of weeks). Burrow is a fine pick as a backend QB1, but I don’t expect him to return to the truly elite status he had in 2022.

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Running Back

Joe Mixon

The Box Scores

  • Total Points: 216.8; RB7
  • Games Played: 16
  • Points Per Game: 13.6; RB13

Beyond The Box Scores

  • Full Games Played: 16
  • Points Per Full Game: 13.6; RB13

Joe Mixon’s 2023 was nothing new. He was more or less a replacement-level runner, generating just 0.02 yards over expected per carry and ranking 35th out of 59 in PFF Rush Grade. But he saw elite usage, with an absurd 80.9% running back rush share (over 5% clear of the next back) and the fourth-most goal-line attempts of any RB. Even with Burrow missing significant time, he ranked 15th of 43 qualified backs in terms of rushing yards per attempt before contact. His passing-game usage declined from 2022, but 3.8 targets per game is still nothing to scoff at. As much as the fantasy community loves to disparage “bad” running backs like Mixon, maintaining replacement-level efficiency on the fourth-most carries in the league over the last three years is nothing to scoff at, and 2023 was the veteran’s third straight RB1 finish.


So Mixon is an okay, but not elite, running back who has taken advantage of a perfect situation to produce RB1 fantasy numbers. Unfortunately for him, he will no longer be in that perfect situation in 2024 … but he might just have found himself in another one. Mixon was traded from the Bengals, who have an elite young QB, two talented young WRs, and a great playcaller, to the Texans, who, after last year, appear to have an elite young QB, two talented young WRs, and a great playcaller. And, counting from his first start in Week 9 (playoffs included), Devin Singletary averaged a 79.7% RB rush share for Houston, so the Texans are clearly willing to give their best back a large workload. I love Mixon’s chances to outperform his current RB17 ADP with high-end RB2 or even another year of backend RB1 production. (Although I must say, looking at the names above him, there are a shocking amount of running backs in decent situations this season, so it’s tough to see who he should move ahead of … maybe I’m just being fooled by the Running Back Dead Zone.)

Chase Brown

The Box Scores

  • Total Points: 40.7; RB65
  • Games Played: 11
  • Points Per Game: 3.7; RB70

Beyond The Box Scores

  • Games Played With Over 10% Of Snaps: 5
  • Points Per Full Game: 7.6; RB45

A fifth-round pick in the 2023 draft, Brown posted some eye-popping metrics in his rookie season. His 4.46 yards per route run was truly insane, over two yards clear of the next back with at least as many targets. He also ranked third among 78 players with at least 40 carries with a ridiculous 49.7% breakaway run rate, as well as landing 11th in PFF’s Elusive Rating. However, his sample size for each of these metrics is truly tiny. His receiving efficiency numbers are especially suspect: It’s very easy to have an elite yards per route run when you get 10 screen targets on just 35 routes (two-thirds of Brown’s total targets were screens, the highest ratio of any back with at least 15 targets). And while they like his elusiveness, PFF also graded Brown as the fourth-worst out of 73 running backs in Rush Grade. There’s also statistical evidence that he wasn’t a particularly effective runner: His 34.1% success rate was the absolute worst of any running back with at least as many as his 44 carries.


It’s tough to know what to make of Brown’s metrics, largely because of his tiny sample sizes. Is he a uniquely explosive back who will continue to break big plays with frequency, albeit with his fair share of dud runs in between? Or is he a mostly inefficient back who happened to hit on a few big plays which are skewing his efficiency stats? Unfortunately, I tend to lean towards the latter opinion. We have seen a few low-success-rate/high-explosive-rate backs succeed in recent years, but Brown’s 34.1% rookie success rate is simply too low to think he can fit that mold (for reference, noted boom-or-bust back Breece Hall managed a 39.7% mark last year on a much worse offense). I don’t see the Bengals, who can get their fair share of explosive plays through the passing game, accepting the amount of wasted downs that would come with giving Brown a substantial workload. They will likely still feature him in the screen game and with occasional carries, but I expect Zack Moss (who had a 48.9% success rate in 2023) to be their preferred back in most situations, especially by the goal line. Brown’s RB33 ADP isn’t as bad as I expected it to be, especially in a Best Ball format, but in most Redraft leagues I’d rather bet on a back who I believe could thrive with a full workload.

Wide Receiver

Ja’Marr Chase

The Box Scores

  • Total Points: 208.8; WR10
  • Games Played: 15
  • Points Per Game: 13.9; WR11

Beyond The Box Scores

  • Full Games Played: 13
  • Points Per Full Game: 15.0; WR6

I mean, it’s Ja’Marr Chase. While his rookie season is still the best of his career (17.2 yards per reception is just mind-blowing), 2023 was his third straight season as an elite receiver. He ranked 11th in the league in targets, 13th in PFF Receiving Grade, 24th in yards per route run, and, if we exclude Weeks 15 and 17 in which he played less than 75% of snaps due to injury, sixth in fantasy points per game. And he did all this with Jake Browning (who, to be fair, was solid) for half the season. If we look at the five-game sample that I called “healthy Joe Burrow games” earlier (Weeks 5-10), he averaged 20.1 fantasy points per game — no receiver averaged more in 2023.


Like I said, it’s Ja’Marr Chase. He’s currently going off the board as the WR3 and fourth player overall, and I can’t really argue with it. I would caution against reading too much into that tempting five-game sample, but we don’t even have to cherry-pick samples to show that Chase was still a truly elite fantasy WR when healthy.

Tee Higgins

The Box Scores

  • Total Points: 116.6; WR46
  • Games Played: 12
  • Points Per Game: 9.7; WR39

Beyond The Box Scores

  • Full Games Played (70% Or More Snaps): 8
  • Points Per Full Game: 12.4; WR21

It’s unsurprising that Higgins gets a boost when we look only at full games, as he has made a habit over the last few years of being active for games despite clearly not being 100% healthy. If I wanted to be generous, I could have looked only at the six games where Higgins played over 80% of the Bengals’ offensive snaps (which he should do whenever he is fully healthy). In those six games, he averaged 14.3 points, backend WR1 production. If we look at his season as a whole, however, 2023 was a down year for Higgins. His 57% catch rate was easily the worst of his career, as was his 1.66 yards per route run and 70.9 PFF Receiving Grade. The question is how much of this “regression” can be excused by a combination of playing through injuries and catching passes from Jake Browning instead of Joe Burrow.


I’ll admit that I got burned last year by trusting Higgins’ “when healthy” splits … but I’m ready to get hurt again. As of now, it appears Higgins will still be in Cincinnati in 2024, and he has consistently been a top-24 receiver (at worst) when he is healthy and on the field with Joe Burrow. Of course, he hasn’t been particularly healthy over the last few years, but I’m not a big believer in avoiding guys because they are “injury-prone.” Give me all the shares of Higgins as the current WR28 in Underdog ADP.

Tyler Boyd

The Box Scores

  • Total Points: 111.4; WR48
  • Games Played: 16
  • Points Per Game: 7.0; WR56

Beyond The Box Scores

  • Games Played With Chase & Higgins: 7
  • Points Per Game With Chase & Higgins: 5.6; WR73
  • Games Played With Chase or Higgins Injured: 9
  • Points Per Game With Chase or Higgins Injured: 8.0; WR51

Boyd had established himself as one of the league’s best WR3s over the past few years, consistently putting up respectable numbers running from the slot behind Chase and Higgins. But secondary weapons are usually the most impacted when an offense takes a step back, and that was very true for Boyd in 2023. He averaged a useless 5.6 Half-PPR points per game when both Chase and Higgins were healthy, and he didn’t exactly light the world on fire when one or the other was injured, either. Declining per-route efficiency and PFF Grades also suggest that the 29-year-old veteran may have lost a step.


That was a pretty negative blurb, but I really don’t hate Boyd at his current WR82 Best Ball ADP; he’s likely to finish higher than that by the end of the season. With that said, I don’t think he’s a great pick in traditional Redraft leagues. I’d rather take a shot on a player who comes with more uncertainty — a Jalin Hyatt type. Yes, Boyd is likely going to outscore Hyatt, but Hyatt has a better (still slim) chance of being an actual weekly starter. As late in the draft as Boyd is going, you want upside dart throws, not floor plays.

Tight End

No tight end either on the Bengals’ roster last year (Irv Smith Jr.) or currently on the Bengals’ roster (Mike Gesicki) is being drafted above my 200 ADP threshold. For what it’s worth, I don’t hate Gesicki (who is basically a big slot wide receiver) as a last-round Best Ball dart throw.