Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
While at the Combine, I was able to meet and talk to several of the running backs in this year's draft class. Many of you may be somewhat down on Wisconsin back Montee Ball, but here's something to think about.
We all know that the Bengals need a running back. It's not because BenJarvus Green-Ellis didn't have a good season in 2012, because he did. It's because the Bengals backfield lacks an explosive element. Bernard Scott has had injury trouble in three of the last four years, including 2012 when he was placed on injured reserve and Green-Ellis, while good between the tackles and in short-yardage situations, isn't going to hit many home runs.
The Bengals have expressed an interest in selecting a running back in the draft to help solidify the Bengals backfield, which, in turn, would help Andy Dalton's progression and the passing game. There are several running backs in this year's draft class but the big-name guys are Alabama's Eddie Lacy, North Carolina's Giovani Bernard and Wisconsin's Montee Ball, among others.
The running backs, along with the wide receivers and quarterbacks, are all finished with their on-field drills at the Combine and their scores have been recorded. While there were some that stood out, both in good ways and bad ways, others gave us exactly what we were expecting to get.
Montee Ball was one of those guys.
Ball didn't wow anyone with his 40-yard dash time. In fact, he was fairly slow compared to the rest of the group, clocking in at 4.66. Considering the Bengals are wanting a guy to add some explosiveness to the backfield, Ball may not be their choice. However, nobody can argue with Ball's results. While at Wisconsin, Ball scored 77 touchdowns and ran for over 5,000 yards. I have heard people say that his production is a result of a massive offensive line, but the same can usually be said about any Alabama running back, including Lacy.
From talking to these guys and attending their press conferences, Ball also seemed to have great character. When he was asked what he would bring to the team that drafts him, he had a pretty great answer.
"Accountability, durability and consistent," he said. "I'm extremely consistent. You can count on me when I have the ball in my hands - 924 carries, only two fumbles. So I do a great job of protecting the football. I score touchdowns. You can count on me to make the play and be there for you."
And then we look at draft history. In last year's combine, one of the slowest backs was Florida Atlantic running back Alfred Morris, who ran a 4.67. He was selected in the sixth round by the Washington Redskins and, as we all know, in 2012 he was the NFL's second-leading rusher with over 1,600 yards.
If that goes to show us anything, it's that a players 40 time in the Combine doesn't really mean much. Of coures, Morris' year could have been a result of Mike Shanahan's system or the read-option or the defensive focus on Robert Griffin III, but it's clear either way that Morris has what it takes to play in the NFL.
So, before you just decide to write off Ball because he's slow, remember that a 40 time can only tell you so much and college game tape doesn't lie. The Bengals may look past Ball because he isn't the kind of back they need right now, but I doubt that the reason they may not draft him has anything to do with his combine results.