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5 Bengals listed among ESPN’s top 100 NFL players

There were five Bengals in ESPN’s ranking of the top 100 players in the NFL. To no surprise, A.J. Green led the way for Cincinnati while cracking the top 20.

NFL: Pro Bowl-Photo Day Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

With a new NFL season looming, ESPN has just released their list of the top 100 players in the NFL.

Of course, several Bengals made the list. They are A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and Andrew Whitworth. There is no question that those five are not only among the best at their respective positions, but among the best the NFL has to offer.

The highest Bengals player to make the list was none other than Green, who came in at No. 19.

A human highlight reel, Green has out-of-this-world leaping ability, which in itself would put him in the top 20 on this list. What else has him ranked so high? The fact that he and Randy Moss are the only receivers in NFL history to have 1,000 receiving yards in each of their first five seasons. Moss ultimately did it six straight years, and Green's goal is to join Moss in the record book.

Next up was Atkins at No. 28.

After an unbelievably dominant 2015, Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther recently said Atkins has "raised his game" in 2016, meaning he expects Atkins to be even better. Three times in the six seasons he's played, Atkins led all interior defensive linemen in sacks.

Then came Whitworth at No. 71.

The Bengals captain has the dubious honor of being an 11-year veteran with only two invites to the Pro Bowl. That number should be much higher. The left tackle has long been regarded by opposing defensive ends and linebackers as one of the best at his position, and his sack-free performance in 2014 was a sign of that.

Not far behind was Dunlap at No. 82.

Dunlap has spent his career constantly pushing himself to obtain bigger and bigger pass-rush goals. Now that he has set the Bengals' franchise record for single-season sacks (13.5 in 2015), he wants to pass Michael Strahan's league-record 22.5 (2011). Noted for his humanitarian work in Cincinnati and his hometown of North Charleston, South Carolina, Dunlap's profile has started rising.

And finally, Eifert managed to get in at No. 87.

Eifert mostly makes this list based upon what he did in an impressive 2015 season. Of his 13 touchdown receptions last season, 11 came in the red zone. What makes that even more impressive: He caught only 12 passes in the red zone last year, leading to a 91.7 percent touchdown per red zone catch efficiency. Uncertainty surrounds the talented tight end, however, as an ankle injury suffered in the Pro Bowl could delay the start to his season.

Those five players more than earned their spots on this list. In fact, each of them could be argued to be even higher if they simply maintain their 2015 form in 2016.

Last year, Atkins racked up 11 sacks, which was the second highest single-season total in his career. He also had 42 total tackles and a forced fumble while being a big reason why the Bengals ranked second in scoring defense and fifth in opponent passer rating (78.9).

The Bengals also went from being dead last in the NFL with just 20 sacks in 2014 to having the ninth-most in 2015 with 42. All of this helped Atkins earn All-Pro honors and a spot in the 2016 Pro Bowl.

For Dunlap, he is coming off a 2015 season with a career-high 13.5 sacks to go with 55 tackles and two forced fumbles. Those 13.5 QB sacks were also a team-high and the fourth most of any NFL player this season.

Whitworth, who is now entering his 11th NFL season, started every game last season at left tackle and has been a major contributor to Cincinnati ranking seventh in the NFL in scoring (26.2 points per game). Whitworth also leads the Cincinnati roster in career games played as a Bengal (157) and starts (153).

2015 saw Eifert emerge as one of the NFL's truly elite tight ends while helping spark Cincinnati to a 12-4 record. His 12 touchdown catches led the NFL through Week 12, but a neck stinger and concussion led to him seeing limited action in the last four games as he finished with 13 touchdowns, which was still a team record for scores by a tight end. .

As for Green, he's coming off a 2015 season in which he caught 86 passes for 1,297 yards (15.1 yards per catch) and 10 touchdowns, marking the fifth straight season in which Green topped the 1,000-yard mark. For his efforts, Green earned a spot in the Pro Bowl, his fifth such selection as he's made it every year in the NFL.

Which Bengals player who didn’t make the list do you think is worthy of top 100 recognition?