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Bengals Player Rankings: No. 1

The king doesn’t like to speak for himself, so we will do it for him.

Cincinnati Bengals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

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.

We’ve reached the very top of our rankings and find ourselves staring in the face of a future Hall of Fame player. No further introduction is needed.

It’s true: Geno Atkins is not the force he used to be. But claiming anyone else on the Bengals is a better football player than him right now qualifies as telling on yourself.

There’s not a single player the Bengals have, not Joe Mixon, not Tyler Boyd, not even A.J. Green, that consistently looks the part of a dominating presence every single week he’s on the field. You can turn on the tape of any Bengals game in the past 10 years, watch No. 97 at the 3-technique spot, and see a perfect model of mechanical and athletic marvel at a position that used to be the opposite of glamorous.

Of course, that should be Atkins’ legacy. The 2010s served as an awakening for evaluators and the under tackle position. At 6-1 and 293 pounds, Atkins came into the league a dwarf at a position that seemed to value size over anything. At his core, Atkins is a physicist, since he continually showcased that leverage combined with force makes height and weight obsolete attributes to possess.

Atkins changed the game. The entire scouting process for his position was shifted towards identifying leverage kings who won with quick hands and explosive first-steps. The likes of Aaron Donald, Grady Jarrett, Maurice Hurst, Ed Oliver and so many others have Atkins to thank for that.

Earlier this year, Atkins made the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team not just for how dominant he was at his peak—and we all know to what degree he was—but for the consistency he continues to display. Casual box score observations would lead you to believe Atkins’ production has taken a deep decline in recent years. In 2017, he was third among starters in Pro Football Focus’ pass rushing productivity metric. In 2018, he was fourth. In 2019, he was 12th.

A gradual decrease? Sure. An alarming drop? Not at all.

The situation around Atkins has changed drastically more than anything to do with his individual ability. The evolution of NFL offenses has also made it easier to mitigate the impact one defensive player can have. I wrote about both of those things last year when Atkins “disappeared” during a game agains the Ravens.

Sooner or later, we won’t see the same Geno we’ve taken for granted these last few years. He’s closer to age 35 than he is age 30 now, and his knees have been put under more stress than anybody’s in the Tri-State area.

Until then, and until someone else takes the throne from him, we respect the king.