Eddie Lacey is one of the big names in an extremely deep class that the Bengals should consider.
As the Cincinnati Bengals approach the 2013 NFL draft, it is clear one of the main positions the team needs to address is running back. The 2013 NFL draft class is deep at the position, but there are a few backs in particular the team should target.
Cincinnati was not horrible rushing the ball last year with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but he lacked the speed to match the West Coast offense the team utilizes.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has said he wants a game-changing back in the approaching draft—one that can do it all between the tackles and in the passing game (h/t Bengals.com).
The Bengals can find just that in the early to mid rounds of the upcoming draft. It would also not be a surprise to see the team take two running backs in the draft considering how deep it is at the position. Adding a change-of-pace option behind an earlier pick would make sense.
In the following slideshow we'll break down five prospects the Bengals should be targeting to fulfill wishes, along with some honorable mentions the team should keep an eye on as well.
Marcus Lattimore is a great late-round option for Cincinnati if he can stay healthy.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Lattimore would find himself as an early-round pick in the upcoming draft if he had not found himself injured once again. He tore three of the four ligaments in his knee last season, but managed to avoid cartilage damage.
He is a fierce runner who has great speed and is powerful between the tackles. Additionally, he is exceptional in pass protection and receiving the football. Depending on how far he drops, the Bengals would be wise to take a gamble on him; however, he certainly should not be the first back they select.
Le'Veon Bell, Michigan St.
Bell is a bruising back at his listed weight of 240 pounds, but is capable of running away from defenders rather than simply bowling over them. He is also very reliable catching passes out of the backfield—an important trait in the Cincinnati offense.
The knock on Bell at this point is he struggle with vision in the backfield. He makes a habit of dancing behind the line and often makes the wrong read. It is an issue that can be fixed with coaching, but Cincinnati should not consider him until the third round or later.
Jonathan Franklin, UCLA
Franklin is the most elusive back in the 2013 class, especially in the open field. He defines the change-of-pace back the Bengals could use moving forward.
While he has been extremely productive throughout his carer, Franklin has serious issues taking care of the football. He has been ineffective in the passing game as well, so the Bengals should look elsewhere for their game-changing back.
Montee Ball has played behind an NFL-caliber line his entire career, which is not exactly a bad thing.
Montee Ball had an extremely productive career at Wisconsin while touching the ball over 600 times. At 5'11" and 215 pounds, Ball has ideal size for playing at the next level.
Outside of the tremendous workload he received in college, the knock on him entering the draft is that he played behind Wisconsin's elite offensive line.
The great line may have paved the way for Ball, but his excellent vision and elusiveness did the hard work. He is a solid back in all areas and would be very productive behind a Cincinnati Bengals offensive line that continuously ranks in the upper echelon of the league in terms of run-blocking.
Joseph Randle has the ability to carry the load at the next level if he bulks up.
With Kendall Hunter out of the way, Joseph Randle took over as the feature back for Oklahoma State.
Randle weighs in at 6'0" and 200 pounds, leaving questions about his durability and capability to handle the workload in the NFL. It is possible to bulk up his frame to a more suitable weight between now and the draft.
What makes Randle a top prospect is his ability to accelerate quickly and his ability to be productive in the running and passing game. He struggles at times to find the hole, but once he hits the second level he is gone.
Randle excels at being patient and is prone to bust a big play at any moment. He is a great fit for Cincinnati, especially given the offensive scheme.
Eddie Lacey is held back by his lack of productivity in the passing game.
Eddie Lacy is a power back at 5'11" and 220 pounds who has battled nagging injuries over the course of his collegiate carer. He is relatively fresh having not been the focal point of the offense at Alabama until recently.
Lacy has an innate ability to surprise defenders in the open field with an array of moves that he pulls off without elite speed, but exceptional balance. It goes without saying that as a power back, he excels when running between the tackles and driving the pile.
The best comparison for Lacy at this point might be Michael Bush of the Chicago Bears, a back the Bengals attempted to sign as a free agent last offseason. Lacey is not the best in the passing game, but he is a power runner that would fit well in a committee approach in Cincinnati.
Andre Ellington is the biggest game-changing back in the draft.
Clemson's Andre Ellington may be a smaller sized NFL back at 5'10" and 195 pounds, but he can break a game open at any given moment.
The ability to change games with his elite speed and elusiveness is also Ellington's biggest issue. He dances too much in the backfield looking for the big play rather than taking what his offensive line gives him.
His lack of size is a concern, as he does not routinely break tackles or push a pile. That said, he could easily add more bulk leading up to the draft and change that perception.
Ellington fits the bill as a feature back (if he bulks up) or as a change-of-pace option, which the Bengals are looking for this offseason.
Giovani Bernard has the potential to be the best back in the 2013 class.
Giovani Bernard is the most complete running back in the 2013 class, and is just now beginning to receive the recognition he deserves.
The North Carolina product excels in most areas—he has no issues catching passes, is exceptional at making the right read and hitting the hole, and has an outstanding balance of speed and power. He even has experience returning kicks and punts.
There are two glaring issues with Bernard that must be cleared up as the draft approaches. One, he has had serious knee issues throughout his career. Two, at 5'10" and 205 pounds, he lacks ideal size and struggles when asked to stay in and block.
If Bernard can clear up these issues, he is a borderline first-round pick. As CBS' Dane Brugler put it, he is reminiscent of Trent Richardson last year, minus the durability and some power.
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