Mel Kiper Jr. optimistic about the Bengals

Like clockwork, I get a question every week from a Bengals fan on my AFC North chat asking why Cincinnati hasn't gotten any respect this year. It's a fair point because power rankings and win total predictions have typically been in the average range.

Well, the Bengals are getting some love. ESPN's Mel Kiper thinks the Bengals might have as bright a future as any other NFL team. It's an Insider piece, so you'll need a subscription to read the entire article. Here's one point that I will share:

If you look across the AFC North, the Bengals get more high-level contributions from younger players than any other team in the division. (Cleveland plays a lot of youth, but it needs to win with it.) Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham lead the offense, and they're all 25 and under. The pass rush is becoming a big strength, and that should now be anchored by Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, also in that younger group.

When it comes to long-term success in the AFC North, the Steelers and the Ravens have become the models. Both keep reloading through the draft, retain their best homegrown players and plug holes with not-so-high profile free agents. Cincinnati has recently followed suit.

The Bengals had one of the best offseasons of any team in the league, adding a starting guard in the draft (Kevin Zeitler) and upgrading at running back (BenJarvus Green-Ellis). My guess is if the Bengals get to the playoffs and win a game, more people will come around to Kiper's way of thinking about Cincinnati.