Monday, February 24, 2014
Combine countdown rewind: Bengals RBs
By Coley Harvey
Last week, in the days leading up to the start of on-field workouts at the NFL combine, we counted down five of the top position needs for a Cincinnati Bengals team that will go into May's draft looking to build depth instead of trying to find immediate starters.
As part of the countdown, I listed three players from each position who I said I would have my eyes on during the interview and testing portions of the event. Now that the combine is concluding, wrapping up Monday and Tuesday with all defensive workouts, I figured this would be a good time to go back and look at the numbers posted by the players who were part of the countdown. Each day this week, we'll be doing a rewind of the countdown, analyzing how well the players who were in it worked out.
Up first: Running back
The Bengals have shown over the years that they are more apt to adding impact players through the draft over free agency, but could that change this year? Last month new Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, the one-time head coach of the Oakland Raiders, made waves when he gushed about Raiders running back Darren McFadden to a San Francisco Bay Area radio station. McFadden is up for free agency starting next month, opening the door for the Bengals to maybe consider signing him.
Not saying it'll happen, but as the Bengals think about shoring up a physical running game that they want to use to pace the balance of the offense, we still may want to keep him in mind as the next two months play out.
Whether McFadden gets brought to Cincinnati or not, the Bengals still have to think a little about the running back position from a depth standpoint. BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be 29 when training camp opens for the final season on his current contract. His production was down in 2013, too, raising some concern about his longer term future in Cincinnati. So even if McFadden comes in to form a three-headed monster at running back, the Bengals may want to add another young rusher to pair with Giovani Bernard, and to groom for the coming years when McFadden and Green-Ellis won't be there.
The three running backs I highlighted last week -- James Wilder Jr. (Florida State), Antonio Andrews (Western Kentucky) and David Fluellen (Toledo) -- are all physical runners who are likely to be selected in the middle-to-late rounds. A taller, upright runner with good balance, Wilder actually reminds me of McFadden. Wilder measured at 6-foot-3, 232 pounds last week. McFadden is listed at 6-1, 218.
Here are numbers (per NFL.com) from the trio's workout Sunday:
-- Wilder didn't test well Sunday. His 40-yard time was the third worst among running backs, and his bench-press numbers were in the lower tier, too. The bench might be explained by the shoulder injuries he battled in college, but the speed tests were a bit of an anomaly for a player who previously had been recorded running a 4.55 40. His vertical and broad-jump numbers were strong for a player his size and reflected the athleticism he routinely showcased on his longer runs.
-- Andrews had a tough time with the drills that tested his speed, too. Although a shade faster than Wilder, the 5-10, 225-pound back still was looking to test a little better in those exercises. Per ESPN Insider, he previously ran a 4.6 40. During the receiving drills, Andrews performed considerably better, drawing audible praise from coaches on the NFL Network telecast of the session. As the first running back to begin the drills -- drills are done in alphabetical order -- he had the unenviable task of setting the tone for everyone else.
-- Fluellen could be drafted the lowest of the players in this group, but his athleticism should end up making him attractive to some team. Like Wilder, his three-cone drill numbers indicate a measure of agility and quick feet. His vertical and broad-jump distances show some explosive ability, as well. At 5-11, 224 pounds, he and Andrews are similar sizes.