- 2x Pro Bowl (1995-96)
- 2x Second-Team All-Pro (1995-96)
- 1992 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
- 1995 NFL touchdown receptions leader (17)
Carl Pickens was arguably the star player for the Bengals during their decade of ineptitude in the 1990s. Drafted in the second round out of Tennessee in the 1992 NFL Draft, Pickens was a difference maker right away for the Bengals as a rookie.
He was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, as he had 26 catches for 326 yards and a touchdown. While those numbers aren’t overly impressive, perhaps his electricity in the return game helped him earn that honor. Pickens had 18 punt returns for 229 yards and a 95-yard touchdown return.
His receiving numbers would improve in 1993 with 43 catches for 565 yards and six touchdowns. Upon the arrival of his receiving battery mate in Darnay Scott in 1994, Pickens safely entered his prime as a professional. He went over 71 receptions for 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns each year from 1994 to 1996.
Pickens’ peak came during 1995 to 1996 when he was named to the Pro Bowl twice, made the All-Pro Second Team twice and led the NFL in touchdown receptions in 1995 with 17. His final three years with the Bengals from 1997 to 1999 were still excellent. Cincinnati could count on him for 50 grabs for over 600 yards and five touchdowns. He would spend the 2000 NFL season with the Tennessee Titans and briefly with the 2001 Dallas Cowboys before retiring at the age of 31.
Pickens and Scott gave the Cincinnati faithful something to cheer about during the worst decade in Bengals football. That receiving tandem hauling in Jeff Blake deep balls was simply electrifying. Even in complete dysfunction organizationally, Pickens proved to the rest of the league that he was one of the best receivers in the NFL during his prime.
He finished with 530 catches for 6,887 yards and 63 touchdowns during his eight years with the Bengals. His career touchdown mark was a franchise record until Chad Johnson surpassed it roughly a decade later. Pickens’ receiving dominance in the mid to late 1990s has stood the test of time in Bengals lore most certainly.