The hype train for Bengals running back Jeremy Hill has continued to pick up steam as the 2015 NFL season inches closer.
Hill showed as a rookie that he's not only the No. 1 RB in Cincinnati, but one of the top backs in football. He gashed opposing defenses during his final nine games of the regular season, posting 929 yards (105 more than any other player during that span) and 5.4 yards per carry (also the highest during that stretch). That included three runs of at least 60 yards. He's only 22-years-old and should only improve significantly in 2015.
The Bengals want to put the ball in the hands of their RBs more than anyone else, including the QB. That's led to big expectations and high praise for Hill in 2015, the latest coming from Robert Mays at Grantland. Mays tabbed Hill as one of his players on the cusp of stardom, and for good reason.
The Bengals finished 10th in rushing DVOA last year on the strength of a monster second half by Hill, who was one of the most efficient per-carry backs in the league. With a bigger workload this year, it would be surprising to see the second-year back crack 5 yards per carry again, but his talents remain perfectly suited for an offensive line that just wants to line up and run over teams.
This is exactly what the Bengals 'want' to do with Hill this year, but what we want isn't always what we get. After all, Cincinnati faces a difficult schedule this year in terms of the run defenses they'll face.
The Broncos (No. 2), Seahawks (No. 3), Ravens (No. 4), Steelers (No. 6), 49ers (No. 7), Texans (No. 10), and Bills (No. 11) all finished 2014 with top-11 rushing defenses. The Bengals have nine games against those teams in 2015.
In terms of fantasy football, the Bengals face the No. 1 (Ravens, twice), No. 3 (Seahawks), No. 4 (Cardinals), No. 5 (49ers), No. 6 (Bills), No. 9 (Rams), No. 10 (Broncos) and No. 11 (Chiefs) defenses in terms of fantasy points allowed by opposing RBs, according to FFToday. They also face a Texans defense that allowed the fewest points to opposing RBs during the final five weeks of last season,
In other words, while the Bengals plan on featuring Hill and the ground game this year, their schedule could force them to throw the ball more than they otherwise may have liked to. That makes Giovani Bernard and even Rex Burkhead more focal points in the offense because they're both better pass-catchers than Hill.
That's not to say Hill won't get his touches, but, the touches he does get may not be as productive this year as when he got them against lesser defenses last year.