Two of the Bengals' best players last year were tight end Tyler Eifert and cornerback Adam Jones. The team finished with a record of 12-4 last season, a feat that may not have been accomplished without the contributions of these two Pro Bowl players. In their annual top 101 players list, Pro Football Focus showed some respect to these two dynamic players with appearances in the 76-101 portion of the ranking list.
PFF's list is released every year based solely on player performances from the previous year, as opposed to any kind of voting system that potentially favors more recognizable players over less-recognizable but more deserving players. The list is released in sections of 25 players at a time, with the bottom 25 being released first. This year, the Bengals saw Eifert and Jones make appearances on the first edition of the list.
80. Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals (unranked)
After an average rookie season and a sophomore campaign lost to injury, this was the first glimpse we had of the talent that made Eifert the No. 21 overall pick of the draft in 2013. It was overall an excellent season punctuated by a few poor games that really hurt his overall grade. At his best he looked like a legitimate matchup nightmare for defenses, with the ability to go downfield, as well as better blocking performances than most receiving TEs manage these days.
Best performance: Week 1 at Oakland: +4.5 grade
Key stat: Eifert had the 10th-highest yards per route run for TEs at 1.67
You could probably make the argument that Eifert deserves to be rated higher than No. 80 on this list. Granted, there were a few games over the course of the season where he completely disappeared. But, the sheer fact that he tied for second place in the NFL in total receiving touchdowns (13) despite missing three games due to injury and not starting in a fourth is an incredible stat that probably goes under the radar.
It's not exactly a leap of faith to say that, had he been healthy for the entire season, he may have led the league in receiving touchdowns without competition. Even an extra game or two to work with could have resulted in accomplishing this feat. Furthermore, one of those games that he missed was the team's Week 16 excursion to Denver on Monday Night Football. Could Eifert have made the difference in the Bengals' offensive collapse in the second half against the Broncos? If so, they might have been able to hold on to their lead and end up with the AFC's No. 1 seed.
Therefore, when you account for all of the difference he could have made, does Eifert being ranked all the way down at No. 80 really make sense? You could make the case for him looking like the very best tight end in the NFL, so having him all the way down at No. 80 seems like poor judgement.
101. Adam Jones, CB, Cincinnati Bengals (unranked)
Jones has a lot working against him at this point in his career. He was 32 years old during the season and at 5-foot-10 is under the threshold for size that the NFL covets among cornerbacks, yet he still produces some of the best football of his career. He allowed just one touchdown all season and wasn't beaten for a reception longer than 24 yards.
Best performance: Week 1 at Oakland: +4.1 grade
Key stat: Jones allowed an NFL passer rating of 60.0 when targeted - the fifth-best mark among CBs
Jones has always been known as an asset for the Bengals during his tenure with the team. However, for most of his career, he has been known as more of an asset to the returning game than on defense. He only managed to earn starting duties for at least eight games in his fourth year with the team (2013) and has only repeated that feat once (2015).
However, Jones showed the Bengals exactly why he deserved to start in 2015. He put together 53 tackles, 12 passes defensed, three interceptions, a forced fumble, and a sack for one of his best seasons as a pro, despite playing at the ripe old age of 32 for most of the season.
Unfortunately, one area of his game in which he did not perform at his best was as a punt/kick returner. Granted, he still played well enough on average that he was more of a benefit than a detriment. But, he gained national recognition this year purely as a cornerback. He was recognized as a Pro Bowler in 2015 for his efforts, although only as an alternate. Given his antics in the 2015 Wild Card playoff game and some of the less refined areas of his game, bringing up the rear on a list of the best 101 players in the NFL probably makes sense for him.
The rest of this list will be released in the coming weeks. If you're keeping up with it, you should probably expect to see talented Bengals stars like Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Andrew Whitworth, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and maybe others somewhere between Nos. 1-75. If each of them make the list, there should be more than the Bengals' fair share of players among the top 101.