Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Ranking draft needs: Running back
By Jamison Hensley
The AFC North blog continues to look at the different positions and rank each team in terms of draft need. For Tuesday, the blog is addressing running backs. Mel Kiper Jr.'s top five running backs are: Alabama's Eddie Lacy, Wisconsin's Montee Ball, UCLA's Johnathan Franklin, North Carolina's Giovani Bernard and Florida's Mike Gillislee.
Here's the rankings ...
1. Pittsburgh Steelers: It's a tough break for the Steelers because they need a featured running back and could take the top-rated one in the draft with the No. 17 overall pick. But this is an average draft class for running backs and it would be too big of a reach to use that pick on Lacy. This is why the Steelers are hoping to sign free agent Ahmad Bradshaw. Pittsburgh could take a running back as early as the second round. The Steelers had one of their worst rushing seasons with the inconsistent combination of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman along with a banged-up Rashard Mendenhall. Pittsburgh should draft a running back at some point in the draft because Mendenhall is gone and Dwyer and Redman will be free agents next season.
2. Cincinnati Bengals: The starting job is set with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The Bengals, though, would like to draft a speedy running back who can provide more big plays and share the workload with Green-Ellis. Cincinnati re-signed Bernard Scott, but he seems to be a fallback option at this point. The Bengals have had pre-draft visits with Lacy and Bernard.
3. Cleveland Browns: Unlike last year, running back is not a priority. Trent Richardson, last season's No. 3 overall pick, has a chance to break out this year if he can avoid injuries. The Browns have some depth with Montario Hardesty (a second-round pick in 2010), Chris Ogbonnaya and recently acquired Dion Lewis. Cleveland may be interested in a back who offers a better change of pace than Hardesty, but the Browns have more pressing needs in this draft. The Browns could take a fullback because Owen Marecic has failed to live up to expectations.
4. Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens have one of the best one-two punches in the NFL with Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Rice remains one of the top five backs in the league, and Pierce exceeded expectations as a rookie third-round pick. Baltimore also has Anthony Allen, who has turned into a versatile special-teams player. In terms of offense, running back ranks last on the Ravens' draft needs.