The Cincinnati Bengals have been pretty consistent when it comes to the NFL Draft under head coach Marvin Lewis, but one position they’ve consistently missed on is running back. Under Lewis, they’ve drafted five running backs, with the two highest draft picks being Chris Perry (first-round in 2004) and Kenny Irons (second-round in 2007), and neither one of them could ever get on the field. Irons tore his ACL during the preseason of his rookie year, and hasn’t played in an NFL game since.
Perry played in only 35 career games in four seasons and was out of the league by 2008 as he battled various injuries. Bernard Scott (sixth round, 2009) hasnt been durable enought to be counted on, and Jay Finley (seventh round, 2011) is no longer on the roster, and Daniel Herron (sixth round, 2012) is facing a roster battle in 2013 after getting called up from the practice squad midway through the 2012 season.
In order to find a running back the Bengals drafted and turned into a quality NFL starter was when they nabbed Rudi Johnson in the 4th-round of the 2001 draft. The Auburn Tiger would go on to have a solid 8-year career as he made the 2004 Pro Bowl and broke the Bengals single-season rushing record (1,458) in 2005.
Other than that though, the Bengals haven’t been able to find even a quality backup since Marvin Lewis took over.
Enter Giovani Bernard.
The former North Carolina running back will likely have the biggest impact of any newcomer, and could very well assume the starting role at some point this season. Bernard was one of the best backs in college last year as he ranked fourth in the nation with an average of 198.1 all-purpose yards per game. He has great burst that gets him to top speed in a hurry. He runs low, with good pad level and balance, similar to that of the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Doug Martin, whom he has been compared to.
He is also a big time threat as a receiver and gives Dalton an outlet to throw the ball on the third down as well as with screen passes, taking pressure off of him. With one of the best offensive lines in the NFL blocking for him to go with A.J. Grteen stretching the defense out, Bernard has a shot to have one of the greatest seasons ever by a Bengals rookie running back.