The Cincinnati Bengals have been horrible the past few seasons, but there’s a renewed spirit in the Queen City as the young talent they’ve brought in is starting to mature.
Players like Jonah Williams and Tee Higgins are expected to take an even bigger jump in 2021, but it’s far from just a few. Several Bengals should see breakout seasons this coming year.
Two of those players are free safety Jessie Bates III, who is entering his fourth season and put the league on notice after a terrific 2020, and former No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow.
Burrow and Bates were the only two Bengals to be placed on CBS Sports’ top 25 under 25 list. The only other Bengal that could’ve been eligible that we haven’t already named is star running back Joe Mixon, who is still just 24 years old.
As for Bates, he was ranked No. 16, a fair spot for the 24-year-old that recorded 109 tackles and 15 passes defended a season ago.
“The best safety you’ve never heard of. Often overshadowed by the lapses of inferior running mates in Cincinnati, Bates has quietly been an ascendant and steady hand at the back end of the secondary, logging at least 100 tackles and three picks in each of his first three seasons. The 2020 All-Pro honors confirmed his rise,” Benjamin wrote.
Now, some may get a bit more angered when they find out that Burrow didn’t even crack the top five. The top three were all quarterbacks, headlined by Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, and Kyler Murray.
That said, here’s what Benjamin had to say on Burrow and ranking him below players like Justin Jefferson and Chase Young. Burrow was ranked No. 8, just about Seattle’s DK Metcalf.
“This requires a fair amount of projection. We’ve got just 10 games to work off, thanks to Burrow’s late-rookie-season knee injury, and he was more solid than elite throughout 2020. But the smarts and the moxie are there. If he stays healthy, he’s destined to be a winner. Is he a better player than, say, Metcalf or A.J. Brown right now? No. But the upside’s too great to ignore, especially at his position. If he stays healthy and plays up to par, he’d easily justify a top-five spot here,” he wrote.
Burrow did tear his ACL after a brutal Week 11 hit. Only 2-7-1 in his first 10 starts, Burrow did manage over 2,500 yards. He certainly would’ve cracked the top five had he not gone down with the injury.
However, Burrow’s back and participating in OTAs, a terrific sign for the young superatar. He’s slated to be back and serve as the team’s starter for Week 1.