With the summer in full swing and NFL training camps less than two months away now, we gathered our Cincy Jungle staff to rank the top 25 Bengals of the 2020 season.
This ranking is simply who we believe are the 25 best Bengals heading into next season. It includes veterans and rookies alike, though it obviously is more favorable of players who’ve actually played snaps in the NFL, so don’t expect guys like Joe Burrow to be a top-five player right off the bat.
For a recap of the list, check out our stream here.
The next player on this list is one of the best at his position in the league, yet remains tragically underrated.
When a running back rushes for 1,100+ yards in back to back seasons, he would normally be considered one of the league’s best backs.
Unfortunately, because of the lack of talent around him, he has gone mostly unheralded outside of Cincinnati.
But he’s No. 3 on our list, which is reflective of his status among the Bengals fanbase.
No. 3: Joe Mixon, running back
There are so many reasons to love Joe Mixon. He is one of the most talented backs in the league, and his passion for football is infectious.
Despite some off-the-field trouble he got into early in his football career, he was quickly a fan favorite in Cincinnati. Even when he was the third back on the depth chart at the beginning of 2017, his outspoken love for the Bengals won over most of the fanbase.
He didn’t get much action in his rookie year, but the organization had already shown signs of implosion. That season, he only rushed 178 times for 626 yards and four touchdowns.
2018 was the first year Mixon was utilized as a feature back for an entire season. He took a hold of the offense in the final six weeks of the season and established himself as one of the most talented players on the team.
During that stretch (Weeks 12-17), he averaged 3.08 Yards After Contact/Attempt and a whopping 56.2% of his yards came from runs of 15 yards or more, per Pro Football Focus. In comparison, he averaged 2.49 YAC/A and only 35.6% of yardage came from runs of at least 15 yards from Weeks 1-11 of that season.
2019 had a similar vibe to it. Mixon had a poor beginning to the year due sparked by offensive line issues that took a noticeable toll on his running style. During Cincinnati’s 0-8 start, Mixon was PFF’s lowest-graded out of the running backs with at least 100 carries. He averaged 2.32 YAC/A, and forced just .14 Missed Tackles/Attempt.
But, once again, he and the O-line turned things around during the second half of the season. He looked like a completely different ball-carrier; averaging 3.63 YAC/A and .21 MT/A from Weeks 10-17. PFF graded him the third-highest back among starters during this stretch.
The Bengals won a total of eight games and finished last in the division both of the past two seasons. But Mixon seemed like one of the few who were immune to the Bengals’ ineptitude. In fact, he appeared to thrive on it.
He touched the ball nearly 600 times in those two years and gained 2,888 total yards of offense, finding the end zone 17 times. During a time when A.J. Green couldn’t stay healthy and the starting quarterback role changed hands several times, Mixon was the Bengals’ constant.
The Bengals’ offense has been so bad at passing the ball, the only chance they had was feeding Mixon over and over again. Very rarely do teams succeed anymore by having their running back be the focal point of their offense, but it gave Mixon an opportunity to prove his worth.
Mixon is one of the most talented rushers in the NFL, and has the ability to make plays when nothing is there. Even when he’s not playing, he can be found on the sidelines cheering his team on.
It’s difficult to find a bigger Bengals fan than Mixon.