September 18, 2014

Better Late?

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With Cedric Benson’s status uncertain and no one behind him who seems to be built for a heavy workload, the Bengals figure to draft a running back fairly early in this year’s draft. No one, however, expects them to do it in the first round. Does that mean they’re going to get stuck with a lesser talent?

Not at all.

As CNNSI.com’s Don Banks found out in his latest column, later-round running backs have been just as successful in recent years.

You’d have to say the second tier of running backs has been just as productive, or more so, than the first tier of running backs in recent years,” one veteran NFL personnel man said this week. “You can get a Ray Rice [second round in 2008] or a Jamaal Charles [third round in 2008] and have them be as productive as Rashard Mendenhall [first round in 2008]. That’s happened a lot lately.

“And you have to admit it’s not a great draft for running backs this year. Teams are looking at other players. With the unusual amount of defensive players you have in this year’s first round, it’s a little skewed. That’s where the players are on everyone’s board. But teams are more patient when it comes to drafting running backs now, and it has been trending that way. Even if you really need one, you don’t have to take one in the first round, because you can get them in the second round or later.”

Alabama’s Mark Ingram might be the only back selected in the first round, and even that’s not guaranteed. My guess is that the Bengals will select a running back somewhere around the third round. And although this running back class lacks some star power at the top, it’s considered to be pretty rich in the middle rounds.

Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas, who the Bengals got to see up close at the Senior Bowl, and Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams are  just a few of the mid-round prospects who the Bengals might have an eye on. I’ll be taking a deeper look at the running backs in the next round of draft profiles.