Like Marvin Lewis, I tend to be wary of a heavy reliance on rookies for an NFL club. It's a tendency that bleeds over to some of my fantasy football teams because of the big roll of the dice that comes with it. There are obvious exceptions with every team and certain players, even as recent as Andy Dalton and A.J. Green with the Cincinnati Bengals. However, some of those reliances are born out of necessity, while others earn their opportunities simply because their obvious talent can't be ignored.
Bengals 2014 second round pick Jeremy Hill exemplifies both of those features for the orange and black. For two consecutive years, the team has used a high pick on a running back, which shows their desire for offensive balance and be a physical force in the bruising AFC North. Hill comes in as the big back with a bit of wiggle and big-play capability--something that wasn't seen in the backfield in the first two years of the Andy Dalton era.
Make no mistake: these moves to improve the running game coincide with Dalton and his play over the past few seasons. Former offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was deemed as "too pass-happy" while having a quarterback with known limitations, and those in defense of "The Red Rifle" say that he hasn't had a viable running game to support him.
Marvin Lewis and Co. have definitely called in the cavalry and Hill should be a major factor in solidifying an area that sorely needs improvement to take this team to the next level. It's that reason that we put him so high on the list.
What To Expect From Hill In 2014:
Though he will be splitting time with Giovani Bernard and maybe a couple of others in the backfield, Hill should still see significant carries. He was sure-handed with the ball at LSU and even proved to be a decent receiver for a big guy out of the backfield. Though they will use Bernard more than Hill as a receiver, he will get his opportunities.
Bernard had 170 rushing attempts as a rookie and BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 220. Depending on if the team ends up keeping "The Law Firm", Hill should fall somewhere between those two numbers in 2014. Green-Ellis had a paltry 3.4 yards per carry last season and that is the area where Hill will need to give the Bengals' offense its biggest boost.
Cynically speaking, I would find it hard to believe if Hill doesn't end up significantly beat that number, given his higher athleticism and the team's effort in solidifying the interior of the offensive line.
There are other draft classmates of Hill that could have the same, if not bigger roles with the team, depending on how roster battles play out. We made the team's first round selection, Darqueze Dennard the No.5 player on the breakout list, but it's a combination of factors with Hill that makes him land at No.3
Aside from the skill set and role he will be asked to play, it's the overall need for an infusion of big-play talent at the position that puts an unproven rookie so high on the list. The Bengals and Dalton haven't fared well in the big games and a correlating factor has been the asking of their quarterback to throw 45-50 times. The key will be to get Dalton to throw only 25-35 times a game, while giving Bernard and Hill 25-30 combined touches.
Though he won't be "the guy" like he was with the Tigers down south, he'll get his shots. We believe that Hill will make the most of them.