Monday, February 17, 2014
Countdown to combine: Bengals RBs
By Coley Harvey
With the NFL combine starting Feb. 22, we're taking a look at positions of need and who the Cincinnati Bengals might be looking at during the combine at those positions.
Position of need: Running back
You'll hear the following repeated often this week: the Bengals have relatively few draft needs. It's true. Unlike some teams that are looking for immediate starting help at specific spots, the Bengals are primarily in depth-building mode. They're on the hunt for young players who could be talented backups in the short term and groomed into potential all-stars in the long term. Even their greatest need -- cornerback -- isn't that big of a concern because of the number of experienced players they have. To that end, it's kind of a reach to consider running back a true area of need, but it is a spot the Bengals could focus on if they feel the right players are available. With a greater emphasis on being physical on offense, Cincinnati might want to explore bringing in another running back to ease the workload from Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Of course, Cedric Peerman, Rex Burkhead and Orson Charles are already on the roster to do just that, but another physical running back could help in the event injuries occur. With Green-Ellis nearing the end of his contract and approaching 30, the Bengals might decide to use this draft to prepare for a future without him. Since the position isn't a major need, Cincinnati likely would look at adding a back in the middle to later rounds if it decided to pick one.
Three players the Bengals might be targeting (all three are expected to be at the combine)
2014 NFL DRAFT
Round 1: May 8, 8 p.m. ET Rds. 2-3: May 9, 7 p.m. ET Rds. 4-7: May 10, noon ET
Radio City Music Hall
New York City
James Wilder Jr. (RB), Florida State: At 6-foot-2 and 229 pounds, Wilder packs the type of physical punch that could make for a good counter to the more shifty, speedy Bernard in future seasons. The son of former Buccaneers tailback James Wilder, the FSU product also has the type of speed that can make him an open-field threat. He's coming to the combine having previously been timed at 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He also isn't foreign to the multiback scheme the Bengals likely will be implementing under new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Wilder was the power back in a college offense that featured the speedy Devonta Freeman and the hybrid Karlos Williams. His combination of size, strength and speed should make him an early-round pick, but questions about the three-year player's maturity could make him slip below the third round.
Antonio Andrews (RB), Western Kentucky: Again, don't expect the Bengals to make a splash with an early-round running back like Ohio State's Carlos Hyde, even if he matches some of the physical tools they might seek at the position. With other positions likely getting picked before they select a running back, the Bengals' later round search may end up taking them to Andrews. Not quite as big as Wilder, Andrews (at 5-foot-10, 225 pounds) still has a physical style of running. He also has shown a knack for being featured in the passing game, as demonstrated by his 41 receptions in 2013. While his hands are good enough to catch passes, his hands also are one of his weaknesses. He had six of the Hilltoppers' 26 fumbles last season.
David Fluellen (RB), Toledo: It wouldn't be surprising to see the Bengals stay close to home when it came to making a potential running back pick. Along with the southern Kentucky native Andrews, Toledo's Fluellen possesses some of what the Bengals could be looking for in a hard-running back. He's 5-foot-11 and 226 pounds with a pre-combine 4.66 40-yard dash time. He might not be the quickest runner, but his six-straight 100-yard rushing performances last season indicate Fluellen's ability to continue picking up yards as he's given carries.