One of the biggest debates surrounding the Bengals this offseason is what the Bengals should do at running back. With Cedric Benson on his way out, the Bengals will need to find a new primary ball carrier or somebody who can split time with Bernard Scott. The usual replacements have been talked about lately, and if I have to hear -- Sign Michael Bush and draft Isiah Pead - one more time, I may go crazy. I have no problem with either player wearing Bengals uniforms next season, but I'm here to introduce you to the 2012 RB Draft Class, which I think is as deep and talented as it's been in a long time. You have to think the Bengals will draft one RB in the first four rounds; this list should give you an idea of how this RB class will shake out come April.
1) Trent Richardson - Alabama - 5'11" 225 lbs - 4.50*
2011 Stats: 283 carries for 1,679 yards (5.9) 21 TD - 29 receptions for 338 yards 3 TD
Strengths: Very muscular build; thick lower half which allows him to runs low and with great balance; Runs angry and doesn't quit; Can run inside and bang it for 4-yards or bounce it outside with deceptive agility and acceleration; Does the little things you look for; uses creative ways to get extra yards; always breaks arm tackles; Tremendous pass blocker; Good receiver out of the backfield; Very polished in all phases of the game; Elite player.
Weaknesses: Only solid speed and elusiveness; He can use what he has to make defenders miss, but it's because of his deceptive speed and agility; has more than 500 carries in college.
2) Lamar Miller - Miami - 5'11" 215 lbs - 4.35-4.40*
2011 Stats: 227 carries for 1,272 (5.6) 9 TD - 17 receptions for 85 yards 1 TD
3) Chris Polk - Washington - 5'11" 225 lbs - 4.55*
2011 Stats: 293 carries for 1,488 yards (5.1) 12 TD - 31 receptions for 332 yards 4 TD
4) Doug Martin - Boise State - 5'9" 215 lbs - 4.45*
2011 Stats: 263 carries for 1,299 yards (4.9) 16 TD - 28 receptions for 255 yards 2 TD
Strengths: Very elusive and compact runner; laterally explosive; squatty runner that allows him to use power; keeps legs pumping and fight for extra yardage; power is underrated; at his best on pitches and in open space; sets up blockers and accelerates decisively; very quickly reaches top speed; sees cutback lane and uses it to his advantage; good in pass protection and as a receiver; very natural ball carrier; employs a nice spin move; hold ball high and tight; return man; has experience in wildcat.
Weaknesses: Played in a lot of pistol and shotgun formations; not great vision - saw him tackled a lot in backfield or at line of scrimmage; didn't run with great authority or burst inside; could add upper body bulk.
5) David Wilson - RB - Virginia Tech - 5'10" 205 lbs - 4.35*
2011 Stats: 290 carries for 1,709 yards (5.9) 9 TD - 22 Receptions for 129 yards 1 TD
Strengths: Blazing top end speed; can quickly get to his top speed; Smooth runner; keeps fighting through contact and doesn't go down easily; has solid ball skills and can make hard catches; uses an effective spin move.
Weaknesses: Poor vision to the line; gets arm-tackled too often; runs faster than the play and doesn't wait for blocks to set up; would rather try to cut back or lose a few yards than accept a no gain; very little lateral explosion; tries to beat you with speed; ball security is a major issue.
Note: As unnatural and unappealing as Wilson looks to me, Chris Johnson looked the same way when he was coming out. If Wilson runs a 4.24 like Johnson, he'll go late round one as well.
6) Bernard Pierce - Temple - 6'0" 220 lbs - 4.55*
2011 Stats: 272 carries for 1,481 yards (5.4) 27 TD - 3 receptions for 52 yards
Strengths: Complete RB; Pierce can get low and compact between the tackles; shows a burst through the hole and falls forward; very patient and has great vision for the cutback lane; in open field, as elusive a RB as you can find - the first attempted tackler never brought him down in open field; nose for end zone; finds every extra inch of yardage; good in pass protection.
Weaknesses: Not great long speed; didn't consistently play elite level competition; 650 carries in college; only 19 receptions in 3 seasons at Temple.
7) LaMichael James - Oregon - 5'9" 190 lbs - 4.45*
2011 Stats: 247 carries for 1,805 yards (7.3) 18 TD - 17 receptions for 210 yards 1 TD
Strengths: Great vision; game seems slow to him; very agile and can change direction quickly; easily makes tacklers miss; quick twitch; tough little guy; natural receiver; gets very low and skinny to avoid arm tackles; return man; highly productive.
Weaknesses: Very skinny frame; can't break tackles; overrated speed; spread offense production; over 800 touches in college.
8) Isaiah Pead - Cincinnati - 5'10" 200 lbs - 4.45*
2011 Stats: 237 carries for 1,259 yards (5.3) 12 TD - 39 receptions 319 yards 3 TD
9) Robert Turbin - Utah State - 5'10" 220 lbs - 4.55*
2011 Stats: 249 carries for 1,517 yards (6.1) 19 TD - 17 receptions for 171 yards 4 TD
Strengths: Muscular and strong build; open field vision; uses a jump-cut to get around blocks; natural receiver (67 career catches); turns shoulders and gets skinny in the hole for a powerful runner; breaks tackles and can drag defenders, nose for the end zone.
Weaknesses: Not laterally explosive; one speed runner; lower level competition; average speed; could be in better shape; slow feet - gets tripped up a lot; dances far too much for a big back.
10) Cyrus Gray - Texas A&M - 5'10" 200 lbs - 4.55*
2011 Stats: 198 carries for 1,045 yards (5.3) 12 TD - 31 receptions for 239 yards 3 TD
Strengths: North-South style; Runs strong; pad level is low and always facing forward; carries tacklers; good receiver for his style of RB; plays bigger than he is; good in goal line; recognizes blitz pickup responsibilities; efficient runner.
Weaknesses: Average speed; very low agility; won't make many tacklers miss; body looks maxed-out; not explosive.
Note: Look exactly like Rudi Johnson. If that's a good thing.