The Alabama Crimson Tide football team has set the standard for college football as of late by winning three of the last four BCS National Championship games. They've done it with tough defense, big offensive lines and a game-managing quarterback, but most of all, with elite-level running backs. First, it was Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Next it was now Browns star back Trent Richardson. Next, it could be Eddie Lacy, who ran for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2012, including 140 yards and a touchdown, along with a receiving touchdown in the team's National Championship win over Notre Dame.
Lacy, an underclassman, has declared for the draft and has become one of the more popular running back prospects. He not only has good size for an NFL back, but seems to have above average top-end speed once he gets to the second level. He is good at making guys miss, both by running through and around them, and he seems to be decent in pass protection as well. To top it all off, he can catch the ball out of the backfield. Currently, ESPN has him ranked as their No. 2 running back prospect after North Carolina's Giovani Bernard.
Typically, the Bengals have zero luck when it comes to drafting a running back in the first round. Chris Perry is no longer in the NFL and Ki-Jana Carter obviously didn't work out. Could the Bengals attempt to strike gold once again, though, and use their first-round pick on a running back in 2013? They've expressed their desire for a game-changing back and not just one that will complement current running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but one who can take over for Green-Ellis should the need arise. A running back like that would likely need to be taken within the first two, or possibly three rounds.
Lacy may be one of the most attractive prospects for one major reason: his lack of significant mileage. Lacy played behind both Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson in 2010 and then behind Richardson in 2011. He only had one season, 2012, in which he carried the majority of the load. Most of the other backs in the draft, like Bernard, Montee Ball, Le'veon Bell, Andre Ellington and the majority of the other top-10 running back prospects have quite a bit more mileage on their bodies, which means they will be a little more susceptible to injuries early in their careers. That's one of the reasons why Ex-Chiefs General Manager, Scott Pioli has Lacy ranked as his No.6 underclassman in the entire draft.
Running back is one of the most grueling positions to play in the NFL. Running backs, especially in divisions with tough defenses, are constantly beaten and battered. The shelf life for most running backs is fairly short, as only some of the league's top-tier backs make it past a few seasons without significant, career-ending injuries. Finding a back in the draft with relatively low mileage at this point could be a big deal as there is less wear and tear on the body.
If Lacy is on the board when the Bengals go on the clock at No. 21, would you be upset if they went ahead and used their first-round pick on a running back, even if that back wouldn't get the majority of the carries in the upcoming season, or would you rather they look for a running back in a later round and fill some of their other needs first?