Bengals could target running back 2021 NFL Draft day three
With Giovanni Bernard entering the last season of his contract, the Cincinnati Bengals could select a running back on day three of the 2021 NFL Draft. Joe Mixon is the clear starting RB for Cincinnati but missed 10 games in 2020 with a foot injury. The Bengals also have Jacques Patrick, Samaje Perine and Trayveon Williams at RB.
The 2021 NFL Draft is not exceptionally deep at RB but Cincinnati will have opportunities to draft someone in the middle to late rounds who can make an impact. Williams was the last RB drafted by the Bengals with the 182nd overall pick in 2019. Williams ran 26 times for 157 yards and had five receptions for 20 in 2020.
The earliest the Bengals should be expected to draft a RB would be the fourth round. Cincinnati has the 111th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft in the fourth round. If Memphis RB Kenneth Gainwell falls from 79th on the Pro Football Focus Big Board to the 111th pick, the Bengals have to seriously consider drafting him.
Gainwell opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 but was spectacular in 2019 running for 1,459 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, scoring 13 touchdowns and catching 51 passes for 610 yards and another three TDs. Gainwell would be a perfect replacement in the likelihood Bernard leaves free agency after 2021.
With Joe Burrow at QB, adding weapons on offense is critical for the Bengals future. Upgrading the offensive line will be a priority in the 2021 NFL Draft, but continuing to add skill position players can eventually turn the Bengals offense into one of the best in the NFL. Gainwell has the perfect versatility in the modern NFL.
Other RBs to keep an eye on with the 111th pick are Khalil Herbert of Virginia Tech and Demetric Felton of UCLA. If the Bengals choose to wait another round, Chubba Hubbard of Oklahoma State, Trey Sermon of Ohio State, Kylin Hill of Mississippi State and Rhamondre Stevenson of Oklahoma would all be good value.
There are several undersized RBs who will be available later in the draft who the Bengals could select with either of their two seventh-round picks. Jaret Patterson of Buffalo ran for 3,884 yards and 52 TDs in his collegiate career, but would not provide Cincinnati with the versatile receiver Gainwell or Hill could become.