Era-adjusted fantasy football player rankings: Ken Anderson, Chad Johnson and more Cincinnati Bengals greats

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the creation of fantasy football, The Athletic is reviewing the best fantasy players and fantasy seasons in NFL history.

A detailed overview of the system used to grade historical fantasy performance can be found in our greatest fantasy players of all-time introduction page, but here’s a quick summary.

Fantasy player performance is era-adjusted so that players who dominated during lower scoring eras can compete versus players who racked up huge point totals in higher scoring eras.

After these adjustments are made, players are then given credit for having a starter-caliber season (one point), a quality season (one point), an impact campaign (1.5 points) or being an elite starter (two points). These points stack and are measured in both non-PPR and PPR and serve as the basis for determining who are the best fantasy players in NFL history.

Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, let’s look at the best fantasy players in Cincinnati Bengals team history!

(Note: the numbers listed below are for the player’s performance while on the Bengals.)

All-time fantasy starting lineup

QB: Ken Anderson

RB: James Brooks

RB: Corey Dillon

WR: Isaac Curtis

WR: Chad Johnson

TE: Rodney Holman

SuperFLEX: Boomer Esiason


Quarterback—Ken Anderson

starter Quality Impact Elite PPR Str PPR Qual PPR Impact PPR Elite Career Points
8 6 6 4 8 6 6 4 48

Anderson is truly one of the great fantasy QBs of all-time, as his 48-career points rank tied for 21st at this position. The most incredible part of his scoring pace is that Anderson was a Top 5 QB scorer for three straight years (1973-75), dropped to low-end QB1 status in 1976-77, then pretty much fell off the fantasy radar screen for three years before returning to elite status with a No. 2 ranking in QB points in 1981 and a No. 3 ranking in 1982. Very few quarterbacks return to top form after that length of absence, and it puts Anderson in rare company.

Running Back—James Brooks

starter Quality Impact Elite PPR Str PPR Qual PPR Impact PPR Elite Career Points
5 4 0 0 6 3 0 0 18

Brooks was a late bloomer, as he didn’t start having a fantasy impact until his fifth NFL season, but then he had a fantastic run with five Top 8 finishes in non-PPR RB scoring from 1985-90 and five Top 10 finishes in PPR RB scoring in that same time frame. Only Roger Craig, Eric Dickerson, Herschel Walker, and Marcus Allen scored as many or more career points than the 17 points Brooks posted in that span. Brooks’ 1986 season is the best era-adjusted campaign by a Cincinnati running back.

Running Back—Corey Dillon

starter Quality Impact Elite PPR Str PPR Qual PPR Impact PPR Elite Career Points
6 two 0 0 6 one 0 0 fifteen

Dillon is tied with Pete Johnson for the most starter-caliber non-PPR seasons by a Bengals running back and tied with Brooks for the most starter-caliber PPR campaigns by a Cincinnati running back. That PPR production is what gave Dillon a two-point edge over Johnson for the second RB spot on this roster.

Wide receiver—Isaac Curtis

starter Quality Impact Elite PPR Str PPR Qual PPR Impact PPR Elite Career Points
6 4 3 0 5 4 1.5 0 23.5

Curtis was one of the best fantasy wide receivers in the NFL from 1973-76. Check out his career points production over that four-year span:

Player starter Quality Impact Elite PPR Str PPR Qual PPR Impact PPR Elite Career Points
Cliff Branch 3 3 4.5 two 3 3 3 4 25.5
Issac Curtis 4 4 3 0 4 4 1.5 0 20.5
Harold Carmichael 4 two 1.5 two 4 3 1.5 two twenty
Harold Jackson 4 two 1.5 two 4 two 1.5 two 19
Mel Gray 4 3 1.5 0 4 two 1.5 0 16

Curtis was able to do this in large part because Bill Walsh was on the Bengals offensive coaching staff for the first three of those four years. Curtis’ production fell off after 1976, as he posted only three more career points in his last eight NFL seasons, but ranking near the top at his position for that many years landed Curtis at the top of the Bengals’ fantasy WR roster.

Wide receiver—Chad Johnson

starter Quality Impact Elite PPR Str PPR Qual PPR Impact PPR Elite Career Points
7 4 0 0 7 4 0 0 22

Johnson was similar to Curtis in that he compressed most of his fantasy production into a five-year stretch. From 2003-07, Johnson ranked in the Top 7 in WR PPR scoring in every year and placed in the Top 6 in non-PPR scoring in each of those years sans the 2004 campaign when he finished ninth in that category. Johnson was also like Curtis in that once his production decline occurred, he never bounced back from it, as he posted only four career points outside of his elite seasons.

Tight End—Rodney Holman

starter Quality Impact Elite PPR Str PPR Qual PPR Impact PPR Elite Career Points
7 two 1.5 two 7 one 1.5 two 24

Holman is a forgotten great in Bengals history. His seven starter-caliber non-PPR and PPR seasons rank tied with Chad Johnson for the second highest in Cincinnati history, behind only Ken Anderson’s eight seasons. Holman’s 1989 season is easily the best era-adjusted campaign in club history, as he posted 128 non-PPR points in a year when the next best tight end scored 82 points (Keith Jackson), the average TE starter scored 62 points, and the Lowest scoring starter tallied to meager 48 points.

SuperFlex — Boomer Esiason

starter Quality Impact Elite PPR Str PPR Qual PPR Impact PPR Elite Career Points
6 5 4.5 0 6 5 4.5 0 31

Esiason was the perfect fit for the Bengals SuperFlex roster spot, as his 31 career points were not enough to win the QB role over Ken Anderson, but they were more than any other Cincinnati player. Esiason was a Top 9 fantasy QB for five straight years (1985-89) and was a Top 5 QB scorer in four of those seasons, including two seasons in which he ranked second (1986 and 1988).


All-time best era-adjusted fantasy seasons

QB: Ken Anderson, 1975 (215.6 points)

RB: James Brooks, 1986 (229 non-PPR, 283.3 PPR)

WR: Isaac Curtis, 1973 (137 non-PPR, 182.2 PPR)

TE: Rodney Holman, 1989 (128 non-PPR, 177.6 PPR)

SUPERFLEX: Bob Trumpy, 1969 (135.5 non-PPR, 172.5 PPR)

(Top photo: George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

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