Montee Ball has been the workhorse for Wisconsin, but that brings about some durability concerns.
Yes there is a need for running backs in Cincinnati. The Bengals have struggled consistently running the football for several seasons now, and both fans and the coaching staff agree that changes need to happen in this department.
All indications are that the Bengals will select a running back early in the draft. Although, selecting Ball in the first round is just completely idiotic for this franchise.
First off, let’s take a look at what the Bengals' current situation at the running back position is looking like.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis is the type of blue-collar workhorse of a back that the Bengals have been using for a long time. Green-Ellis will be in the backfield again next season, but the Bengals are in dire need of a back in a complementary role.
Bernard Scott was supposed to be that player in 2012, but multiple injuries sidelined him for all but a partial game.
Cedric Peerman came in to replace Scott, but the results were very inconsistent. Peerman showed some elusiveness in the open field but lacked the constant ability to get through the first wave of defenders.
This leaves the Bengals all out of the type of back that is known as a “home run threat.”
A home-run hitting back is exactly what the Bengals are looking for in order to get its West Coast offense running at a highly consistent level. Ball does not fit the bill.
Yes, Ball has had plenty of explosive runs in his college career at Wisconsin and he has a great nose for the end zone, but the amount of wear on this running back’s legs has been extraordinary to this point.
Ball has a total of 924 regular season carries in his college career with 2012 resulting in his highest carries total at 356.
Because of an increased workload, Ball’s collegiate production took a severe dip in 2012.
In 2011, Ball carried 307 times for 1,923 yards for an average of 6.3 yards per carry along with 33 touchdowns. With Ball’s legs worse for the wear, his 356 carries in 2012 resulted in 1,830 yards for a 5.1 yard-per-carry average with 22 touchdowns.
Yes, there were changes made along his offensive line between those two seasons—most notably guard Kevin Zeitler who now starts for Cincinnati. But a drop in production that large does not bode well for his durability at the professional level.
That being said, let’s take a look at what Cincinnati could do in the first round and still be able to get the back that they would like to have in the offensive scheme.
First off, at 21st overall, there is a very good chance that Cincinnati could go ahead to fill an even bigger hole in its team with linebacker Arthur Brown of Kansas State.
With the looming departure of middle linebacker and underachiever Rey Maualuga, Cincinnati will have a huge hole to fill in their sixth-ranked defense.
At 6’1” and 224 pounds, Brown is a formidable force at inside linebacker. Brown finished with 91 tackles, a sack and two interceptions in his 2012 campaign.
Brown is capable of playing in all phases at the next level. He is disruptive against the run and can also drop back in coverage as he moves very fluidly for a larger linebacker.
If Cincinnati can lock in Brown in the first round, that will fill their largest hole on the defensive side of the ball.
In the early second round, there are quite a few very elusive running backs left on the board. One, in particular, is Alabama’s Eddie Lacy.
Lacy at 6’1” and 220 pounds can be absolutely dominating at the NFL level with that kind of size.
Not only is he a large running back, but he has a great burst, is known for his spin move and is a major home run threat. All of these are features that the Bengals are looking for in a running back.
He is also very fresh coming out of college as a junior. In his career, Lacy only has 355 carries for 2,402 yards (6.7 yard per carry average) and 30 touchdowns. Lacy’s career carries total one less than Ball’s carries in 2012.
Lacy seems to be a great fit for what the Bengals are trying to accomplish with this offense and certainly fits the scheme much better than Ball.
Now, this is only Kiper’s first mock draft, and it is still very early to decide where certain players will end up (especially before the combine), but one must think that he may want a do-over with his current Bengals selection.