There's a lot of buzz around this next NFL draft. The player talent is one of the best ever seen, with players like Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson and Matt Kalil leading other highly touted talents. There are many rumors spreading about what teams like the Indianapolis Colts will do should they draft a quarterback, what the Cleveland Browns will do with their picks, and, my personal favorite, what the Bengals will do with their picks, especially the two first-rounders.
The Cincinnati Bengals' needs are abundant. From safety, to corner back, to offensive line, to running back, there are many holes on the Bengals team that need to be addressed. Running back is not one of those.
The Bengals should not draft a running back, at least not in the first two rounds. The reasoning is simple: Their other needs are greater. The Bengals secondary is aging and the need for a second solid corner was revealed after Leon Hall's injury. Bobbie Williams is 35 and has proved to be injury prone. The depth behind him is weak. Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson are both solid players but behind them the lineup gets hazy, and Taylor Mays has not played up to expectations.
The most surprising need for some is at wide receiver. While A.J. Green is certainly dominant, there are no reliable secondary receivers. Jerome Simpson, despite his acrobatics, is inconsistent and will likely never play in the NFL again due to drug charges. Andre Caldwell's ability is questionable as well. Jordan Shipley has to prove he can return from his injury. Ryan Whalen had just four receptions last year. It's clear another receiver is needed. If that can be addressed in free agency, great, but the Bengals are rebuilding and looking for young talent. The draft is the best place to find it.
What position should the Bengals prioritize with their draft picks?
But why not take a running back? Should Trent Richardson's draft stock fall, he could be available to the Bengals. If not, Lamar Miller has been highly praised and could fit the Bengals system well. However, while both backs are incredible, the Bengals must prioritize the secondary and offensive line. After those needs are addressed in the first round, they can get a wide receiver in the second round, or, if Miller is still on the table, they can consider taking him.
The fact of the matter is that running backs are a dime a dozen. They don't last long, time has shown they shouldn't be drafted early, and they are in abundance in the NFL. Numbers don't lie. Of the top 10 running backs last year, only three were taken in the first round. Not counting Arian Foster, the best running backs are taken with the 60th pick on average (Foster was not drafted). The top seven running backs were all second-rounders or later.
The Bengals have more than $60 million to spend on free agents this year. That's the most in the league. They have the money to lure proven running backs like BenJarvus Green-Ellis or, more optimistically, Marshawn Lynch to Cincinnati. And, to be honest, a running back like Lynch might be tempted by more than just money to play in Cincinnati. It's a growing team and has proven that, despite its youth, it has potential.
Beyond that, there are some running backs who could prove NFL material who will fall to later rounds. Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in two straight seasons for the Bearcats, averaging over five yards a carry. He also had more than 300 receiving yards, showing he has good hands and can be another receiving if required. He could fall to the fourth round possibly, although, if he's still available in the third round, the Bengals should take him. Cincinnati fans love local talent like Kevin Huber and Mike Nugent.
The Bengals shouldn't use their early picks on a running back. It's unnecessary and doesn't address the largest needs of the team.