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ESPN's Hensley Ranks The AFC North's Running Backs

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May 22, 2012; Cincinnati, OH USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back  BenJarvus Green-Ellis runs the ball during organized team activities at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-US PRESSWIRE
May 22, 2012; Cincinnati, OH USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis runs the ball during organized team activities at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-US PRESSWIRE

As you may know, ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley has been putting together a series of "top five" positional lists in the AFC North. He ranked A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham as the top receiver and tight end in the division, respectively. Hensley stresses that these lists are projections rather than how the players performed last season, or in other seasons for that matter. Hensley views free agent acquisition BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the third best running back in the division.

Baltimore's Ray Rice ranks as the division's top back. He is followed by third overall pick Trent Richardson, Green-Ellis, Isaac Redman, and Raven's fullback Vonta Leach. Hensley had this to say about Green-Ellis:

"The replacement for Cedric Benson upgrades the Bengals in the red zone and in ball security. He led the Patriots with 24 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons, and he has never fumbled in his four seasons. The biggest question is whether he'll improve his 3.7-yard per carry average from last year."

Third appears to be the right spot for Green-Ellis. Many would likely place him second over rookie Trent Richardson, who has yet to prove anything in the NFL. As stated earlier, Hensley sees these lists as projections. Green-Ellis has been great in the red zone for the Patriots and that is certainly an area that the Bengals offense struggled with last season. It has also been well documented that Green-Ellis has never fumbled during his professional career. Ball security is something that Cedric Benson struggled with the past two seasons, fumbling twelve times. Green-Ellis also upgrades the team through his character, as Benson had been known to get visibly upset when he did not routinely get the ball and make subtle jabs at the coaches.

Though Green-Ellis seems to be an upgrade from Benson on paper, some still question if Green-Ellis can be as productive as Benson. The former Patriot back has never put up the numbers that Benson has, but he also has not had as many opportunities in the pass happy Patriot offense. Keep in mind that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has also stated that there will be a running back by committee this season. If Bernard Scott can be effective, the Bengals won't have to rely on Green-Ellis nearly as much as they relied on Benson.