That leaves the Draft. Two first round picks make targeting a stud running back a very sexy possibility, and yes, the Bengals are one of the few teams that draft by position. However, running backs have traditionally slid in years past, so the Bengals may take a very opportunistic approach this year if the backfield has not been addressed in free agency.
For example, Trent Richardson (Alabama) is an excellent prospect who is currently listed somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-8 overall. The scramble for Robert Griffin III that will occur within the first four picks will leave the first look at Richardson for Tampa Bay. Should they pass on him, he will likely fall until Kansas City, unless someone trades up. If both Bucs and Chiefs pass on Richardson, then the Bengals snag a huge player off the board. If not, they wait. Unless it’s Richardson, no running back will be selected in the first round by the Bengals. Lamar Miller (Miami) is the next best running back on the board, but it would be a real stretch to select him at 21. There are too many other needs and much better prospects that fill those needs when the Bengals make their second pick of the first round.
However, if Miller is still there when the Bengals step up on Day 2, then he’ll be a monster value, but like Richardson falling in the first round, Miller falling in the second isn’t something that can be counted on. As before, it is unlikely that the Bengals will reach for Chris Polk (Washington), Doug Martin (Boise State) or LaMichael James (Oregon) who looks a lot like a Bernard Scott clone to me. Again, other team holes will be patched here.
Unless exception takes place, expect the Bengals next starting running back to be drafted in the third round. Besides the others mentioned, Cyrus Gray (Texas A&M) would be a great fit and certainly on the board, but so will Isaiah Pead (Cincinnati). Bengals scouts have been looking at this young player very closely but conservatively over the past several months, keying in on him near exclusively at the Senior Bowl. Could he start right away? People asked the same questions about Andy Dalton. In Coach Gruden we trust.
Personally, I feel bad for Benson. I loved the fire he showed when Chicago dismissed him, and despite everything, he’s very loyal to the Bengals organization for his second chance. The problem with him is that he’s playing his age (29); training like he’s 25 and weighing in like he did when he was 22. Benson has lost any lateral ability that he had, lining up sometimes five yards deeper than most running backs, telegraphing the play more than necessary, in order to hit the line as hard as he can. Sometimes he scoots through for five or six, most of the time he gets nothing. In a perfect world, I’d like to see Benson remake himself into the power fullback role that Chris Pressley is not. By bulking up twenty or thirty pounds and reconditioning, Benson could build himself a role on the roster. As it is, he’ll likely be let go.