AFC North Positional Rankings: Running Back

5 of 5

Jan 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) celebrates with running back Giovani Bernard (25) after scoring a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts in the first quarter in the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

1. Cincinnati Bengals

RB1: Jeremy Hill (2nd among starters)

RB2: Giovani Bernard (1st among backups)

RB3: Rex Burkhead

FB: Ryan Hewitt (3rd among fullbacks)

“Nuke and Juke.” It’s a nickname that’s gaining more and more momentum among Bengals fans, and I certainly hope it catches on in 2015. Jeremy Hill caught fire after Giovani Bernard suffered a hip injury in Cincinnati’s Week 8 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, emerging as a reliable bell-cow running back for Cincinnati and accumulating the most rushing yards of any running back in the second half of 2014.

Jeremy Hill will presumably start for Cincinnati in 2015 after gaining 1,124 rushing yards and 215 receiving yards, while rushing for 9 touchdowns (tied for third in the NFL). He led all NFL running backs in rushing yards over the second half of the season and came up big for the Bengals in several key games over the course of Cincinnati’s playoff push. Hill will provide a solid fantasy option for fantasy owners, and rightfully so; he is one of the NFL’s most powerful and explosive runners. Hill is a fun player to watch; he celebrates his touchdowns with entertaining dances and embarrasses opposing defenders with his trucking ability and powerful stiff-arms en route to the end zone.

And even if Jeremy Hill may not be as dominant as Le’Veon Bell today, he may as well pass the Steeler if he can replicate his 2014 game averages in the upcoming season. To top that, Cincinnati boasts a player who may as well be the best backup running back in football: Giovani Bernard.

While Jeremy Hill is Cincinnati’s nuke, powerfully blasting through defenders, Bernard is the Bengals’ juke, leaping over defenders and breaking opponents’ ankles with an elusiveness that can’t be matched by any other player.

Giovani Bernard is an outstanding running back who has the skill set and ability to start on several NFL teams. But Cincinnati lucked out, scoring Hill in the second round of the 2014 draft and pairing him up with the speedy back who will now likely serve as a game-changing gadget in Hue Jackson’s run-oriented offense. Bernard has accumulated 1,375 career rushing yards, 863 receiving yards and 15 total touchdowns (10 rushing, 5 receiving).

Pairing Giovani Bernard with Jeremy Hill gives Cincinnati a duo of running backs who will strike fear into opposing defenses and give defensive coordinators headaches. Add sophomore fullback Ryan Hewitt, who showed great progress in the 2014 season and Rex Burkhead, who had some glimpses late in the season, and Cincinnati’s running attack should be the best in football. Hue Jackson will be delighted to know that any time his offense is struggling to move the ball, he will be able to switch up runners and bring new energy to the field. The most exciting part of this duo for Bengals fans: Giovani Bernard has embraced his role; the two running backs seem to be close friends and seem ecstatic to take the field in 2015.

Next: AFC North Positional Rankings: Quarterback