NFL

The Cincinnati Bengals Have a Future Hall of Famer Hidden on Their Roster

The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the brightest stars in the NFL on their roster with QB Joe Burrow, the top pick in this year’s draft. They hope he’ll become a franchise quarterback and give them years of top-level production. But he is an unknown in the league.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Bengals also have a veteran player who has spent a decade in the league but has really flown under the radar for much of that time despite playing at a high level. In fact, he could be a future Hall of Famer who not many people think about in that respect.

Geno Atkins’ career on the Cinicinnati Bengals

Geno Atkins looking on from the sideline
Geno Atkins looks on from the sideline during a Bengals game | Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Bengals took DT Geno Atkins in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft, No. 120 overall. That has turned out to be a steal for the team, as Atkins given the Bengals some strong performances in the first 10 years of his career.

He’s played 153 games in his career and has been rough on quarterbacks, recording 75.5 sacks in addition to 171 quarterback hits. He has 383 tackles, including 100 for a loss. Atkins has also forced eight fumbles and has two fumble recoveries, one of which he took into the end zone for a touchdown. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl eight times in his first 10 seasons.

Geno Atkins flies under the radar

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Despite those numbers, Atkins flies under the radar compared to other top defenders like JJ Watt or Aaron Donald. Part of that is being on the Bengals, who aren’t in a major market and don’t get much national TV exposure.

They also haven’t been good in recent years; the last time they made the playoffs was 2015, which is also the last season they finished with a winning record.

His lack of recognition is also tied into him being drafted as late as he was. Top picks get all of the attention during the draft, and by the time the fourth round comes around the networks airing the draft usually aren’t showing all of the picks live because those players typically don’t become stars.

But Atkins has, whether the media wants to recognize him as such or not. Fans of the other teams in the AFC North certainly know about Atkins because of how often divisional rivals play, but for football fans across the country, Atkins isn’t as well-known as he should be.

Hall of Fame case

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When ESPN wrote about future Hall of Famers on all 32 teams, Geno Atkins was made the top choice on the Bengals and put in the “likely” category, giving him a 70% chance or higher of someday getting a bust in Canton. And the author’s write-up of the tackle started by noting the lack of media attention he gets.

The blurb referred to Atkins as an “interior disruptor” and noted that his eight Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pro selections are “just about a magic formula for getting into the Hall.” Since 1970, 55 Hall-eligible players have that same combo, and 52 of them have been inducted. With a stat like that, Atkins seems like he is a shoo-in to get enshrined after he retires and eventually reaches the eligibility criteria.

So when will that be? Atkins is 32 years old, so he should have a few years left in his career if he can stay healthy. Playing into the mid or upper 30s isn’t unheard of for NFL players nowadays, with the training regimens that they have.

Atkins signed a four-year extension with the Bengals in 2018 that will keep him in Cincinnati through 2022, if he isn’t cut before then. When Atkins finally hangs up his cleats, that will begin the countdown to what seems to be an inevitable trip to Canton.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference