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Top Five Rookies Bengals Will Face in 2015

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May 1, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams first round draft pick Todd Gurley talks with the media during a press conference at Rams Park. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

RB Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams

If this year’s “best running back” tag doesn’t belong to Melvin Gordon, then it certainly belongs to the Bengals’ Week 12 opponent, running back phenom Todd Gurley.

Gurley offers everything a team could want in a running back.  He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast, and he has big hands to secure the ball.  Quite frankly, other than his knee injury, I’m not entirely sure Gurley has a weak spot.

While at Georgia, Gurley was nothing short of incredible.  His freshman season proved to be his best, though this had more to do with injury than anything else.  Nonetheless, this isn’t an indictment against Gurley who complied 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2012.  As Zierlein notes via Gurley’s draft profile, he set a freshman touchdown record at Georgia and was one of only two freshmen in school history (along with the great Herschel Walker) to accumulate 1,000 yards.

From there, Gurley continued his dominance, yet only when on the field.  During his sophomore year, Gurley suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of three games and, in turn, affected his rushing numbers.  Yet, Gurley was heading towards an equally impressive season when compared to his rookie campaign.  In 2014, Gurley missed much of the season due to violating NCAA rules (a la Johnny Manziel, he accepted money for signed memorabilia) and then after suffering a torn ACL.  Based on the games he did play, had Gurley played a full season, he could’ve ran for around 2,000 yards and accounted for 20 rushing touchdowns.

Now with the Rams, if Gurley recaptures the form and promise he offered at Georgia, stopping him could prove to be very difficult.  The Bengals had difficulty stopping the run in 2014 and though they’ve added some pieces to improve the defense in this way, it remains to be seen whether or not these additions will prove effective.

Making matters worse for the Bengals in the Rams draft following the selection of Gurley.  The Rams selected four offensive linemen in subsequent rounds: Wisconsin’s Rob Havenstein, Louisville’s Jamon Brown, Iowa’s Andrew Donnal, and Fresno State’s Cody Wichmann.  This while the team already had last year’s first round selection Greg Robinson and veteran Rodger Saffold.  The Rams’ offensive line should be much improved in 2015, which should help Gurley find his NFL groove.

When the Bengals meet the Rams at Paul Brown Stadium in Week 12, they had better be ready for a battle in the trenches.  This battle will likely prove to be the difference in the game.

Next: Week 16 versus the Broncos