After watching Avengers: Endgame, I couldn’t stop thinking about the multiverse. Then, my mind drifted to the Projection Machine, which acts as a fantasy football time machine. Every little tweak in the timeline of fantasy football can have a wide range of repercussions that echo across the league. So, in this series, I’ll dial up that Projection Machine to examine players who could experience big swings in fantasy value if certain things break the right way.
Team Level Insight
One of the biggest questions for me this year is the Cincinnati Bengals. We don’t have much of a clue on how new head coach Zac Taylor will run his offense. Back in 2015, he took over as offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins in a tumultuous year. During that stretch, Taylor’s offense sported a 57-43 pass-run split while going 2-3. Teams that finish with 6 or 7 wins have averaged a 58-42 split since 2013, so we’re pretty close to expectations with Taylor.
What Will Probably Happen…
Vegas win totals have the Bengals pegged at 6 wins so we’ll start with a 58-42 split.1
If Joe Mixon hits the default projection on the PM of just under 270 points, he would have landed at RB9 last year. That’s counting him for 70% rushing share and a 12% target share. That workload is elite, historically. In fact, per the RotoViz Screener, only 47 of 3,097 running backs have hit those thresholds in a season. Mixon is currently going at the middle of the second round as RB10 so he’s more or less priced correctly.
What Could Happen…
Hitting those market share numbers in both the pass and run games seems reasonable. Even with that exceptional workload, though, Mixon doesn’t come without some downside. With A.J. Green likely to miss multiple games, the offense could struggle. Tyler Boyd is a bonafide stud and will still get his, but what if the offense as a whole in Cincinnati doesn’t perform?
Mixon saw 55 targets last season in his 14 games but was better in games that Giovani Bernard missed. About 2.2 PPR points per game might not seem like a lot, but the 16-game pace for Mixon in games without Bernard would’ve been good for RB6 compared to RB9.
Rolling back just a little of Mixon’s workload – 68% of the rushing attempts and 10% of the targets – and cutting back efficiency with a bad offense paints a pretty dim picture. I dropped their overall play volume,2 assuming the Bengals have trouble moving the ball, at least in the beginning of the season.
The numbers above push Mixon down to right around 200 points. That puts him squarely in the mid-RB2 range at RB17.
It’s important to understand a player’s range of outcomes when projecting them out for the upcoming season. Per the Range of Outcomes App, we’d expect a similar season to what Mixon experienced last year. The app doesn’t know about the loss of Green to start the season and the perceived weakness of the offensive line. The Bengals offense could be in for a long year and that would include Mixon.