At first blush, selecting the top 50 Cincinnati Bengals of the past 50 years might not seem all that difficult. But those of us who follow the Bengals and have been around long enough to remember when the only professional football team in Ohio was in Cleveland, know there have been a lot of great players to wear Bengals stripes.
There is no doubt some of your favorite players have been left off of this list. And others you might not deem deserving have found their way on. Some are ranked too high for your tastes, and others too low. But each and every one of these men has played outstanding football for the Cincinnati Bengals at one time or another, and each is deserving of recognition.
The Cincinnati Bengals are recognizing 50 of the team’s best players through the 50th anniversary season, and many of these players are sure to be among the group honored throughout 2017.
We will start with Nos. 50 through 41 and then will look at players in groups of five until we wind up at No. 1. So, without further ado, let us begin in remembering some of the greatest Bengals players of all time.
50. Paul Robinson, Running Back
Robinson was chosen by the Bengals in the third round (82nd overall) of the 1968 NFL/AFL Draft. In his first year as a professional, he led the AFL in rushing with 1,023 yards and scored eight touchdowns. He also caught 24 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown. Robinson became just the second man to gain more than 1,000 yards in his first year in professional football, the first being Cookie Gilchrist.
Robinson, who is the only running back in history to gain more than 1,000 yards in a season for a first-year expansion team, was named the 1968 United Press International and Sporting News AFL Rookie of the Year and finished second in the MVP voting to Joe Namath. He was named to the 1968 and 1969 AFL All-Star Team.
He also scored the first-ever regular-season touchdown for the Bengals on September 6, 1968. His two-yard run gave the Bengals a 7-0 lead over the San Diego Charges in a game the Bengals eventually lost, 29-13.
49. Lewis Billups, Defensive Back
Billups played seven seasons with the Bengals and Green Bay Packers, recording 9 interceptions and 8 fumble recoveries. Billups liked to wear an opponent’s t-shirt the day of the game to stay focused.
Known as a tough corner who played with a chip on his shoulder, Billups was very popular among teammates. Unfortunately, he is often remembered for his critical dropped interception in Super Bowl XXIII.
48. Dave Lapham, Offensive Line
Lapham played for the Bengals from 1974 to 1983. During his 10-year playing career, he played all five line positions and was a key player on the 1981 Bengals squad that won the AFC championship and ultimately lost Super Bowl XVI to the San Francisco 49ers.
47. Bobbie Williams, Offensive Line
Williams joined the Bengals as an unrestricted free agent in 2004 and was the only player to play every snap on his unit. In 2005, Williams was part of an offensive line that only allowed 21 sacks to beat the previous franchise record of 24 set in the 1972–73 season.
46. Joe Walter, Offensive Line
Walter was selected in the seventh round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Bengals. He played 13 seasons with the Bengals (166 games played, 77 started) and now lives in Florence, Kentucky.
45. Coy Bacon, Defensive Line
Bacon was traded from San Diego to Cincinnati in 1976 for wide receiver Charlie Joiner. The trade immediately paid off as Bacon responded with an NFL-high 21.5 sacks. Unfortunately, that was before sacks were an official NFL stats, so he’s often robbed of recognition when talking about the NFL’s best-ever pass rushers. He made the Pro Bowl in his 21.5 sack season and was a second-team All-Pro selection.
44. James Francis, Linebacker
Drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals with the 12th pick overall in 1990, Francis had 33.5 sacks, 11 interceptions and three touchdowns in a 10-year NFL career that included nine seasons with the Bengals.
43. Ross Browner, Defensive Line
Browner was the Bengals’ first-round draft pick in the 1978 NFL Draft and was voted the team's Most Valuable Player that year. He played nine seasons for the Bengals and set the Super Bowl record for tackles by a defensive lineman in Super Bowl XVI.
42. Takeo Spikes, Linebacker
Spikes was drafted by the Bengals in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He started all preseason and regular season games in his rookie season and became the first rookie to lead the Bengals in tackles since James Francis in 1990. He also led the team in total snaps played with 997.
In 1999, Spikes was elected team captain and forced four fumbles, recovering all four. In 2000, he played every game and recorded 128 tackles. He passed the 100 tackle mark for the third straight time and led the team in tackles and fumble recoveries.
In 2001, Spikes started all of the 15 games he played and once again led the team in solo and total tackles. The 2002 season was his final season with the Bengals, and he played all 16 games. He once again led the team in solo and total tackles and scored his second defensive TD by way of a fumble recovery.
During his time with the Bengals, Spikes played in 79 of a possible 80 games, missing the one for his father's funeral.
41. Darnay Scott, Wide receiver
Scott was drafted by the Bengals in the second round (30th pick overall) of the 1994 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Scott caught touchdown passes of 55 and 67 yards against the two-time defending Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys and finished the game with four receptions for 155 yards. The following week, against the Seattle Seahawks, he turned in another outstanding effort with seven catches for 157 yards (including a 76-yard catch). Scott finished the 1994 season with 46 catches for 866 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 106 yards on 10 attempts. He led the NFL in Yards Per Reception with 18.8.
In 1995, Scott continued his successful ways as he caught a career-long 88-yard touchdown pass against the Seattle Seahawks. The following week, he caught a 56-yard touchdown reception against the Houston Oilers and finished that game with four catches for 125 yards. In 1997, Scott caught the final pass thrown by Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason: a 77-yard touchdown reception.
Scott’s best season came in 1999 when he finished with 68 receptions for 1,022 yards and seven touchdowns. He played his final season with the Bengals in 2001. In nine seasons overall, Scott caught 408 passes for 6,193 yards and 37 touchdowns, and never lost a fumble.
What do you think of our list of the Bengals’ all-time best players, ranked 50-41?