The Bengals have one of the deeper running back rooms in all of the NFL, but does that talent translate to fantasy success? If so, where should you be looking to take Cincinnati's running back in your draft this year? Let's break it down.
The quintessential two-headed demon, Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill can give any defense in the NFL a tough day at work. Even more so, the versatility of each player doesn't necessarily make the duo handcuff picks like some other running back one-two combinations. Both backs have taken their share of third down opportunities, goal line carries, and snaps in general. While Hill may be seen as a more typical bellcow, among the tackles carrier, and Bernard is seen as a scatback type, those categorizations are not necessarily true. Both guys are capable of performing in all aspects of the game and on all three downs. Granted, Hill may have more power and Bernard more speed, but don't cut any of their talents short. Hill is just as capable of catching out of the backfield as Bernard is running between the tackles.
In 2015, Bernard had an extremely strong season. He topped 1,200 yards from scrimmage last season with 472 of those yards coming on 49 receptions in the passing game. This gives Bernard some added value in PPR leagues. The downside to his season was in scoring only two rushing touchdowns all year. This is where Hill did much better, scoring 11 rushing touchdowns on the year. However, Hill only managed 4.3 yards per carry compared to Bernard's 4.7. Despite the per carry difference Hill easily beat out Bernard for the season scoring 145 points to Bernard's 119 in ESPN standard scoring. This situated them at 14th and 21st respectively in ESPN's 2015 scoring leaders among running backs.
It remains to be seen if Zampese will utilize Bernard and Hill in the same manner that Hue Jackson did, but it's probably safe to assume he will. Therefore, on touchdowns alone Hill is a solid choice for a late selection RB1, and a great value at RB2. His production took a bit of a dive last year but after his 2014 season and his noted attitude change following the Wild Card loss to Pittsburgh, it's not hard to be excited about him.
Not everyone is excited about Hill's prospects for the coming year as CBS Sport's isn't even happy with him as a RB2
We'll agree to disagree here, as I believe there's tremendous value to be had in a resurging Hill for 2016. If you see him hanging around in round 3, pick him up.
As for Bernard I think with his limited goal line opportunities in 2015 he's a safe pick as a RB3 with RB2 upside in a PPR format. He's going to give you about 50 catches a season which is pretty nice receiving production for a running back. ESPN ranks Bernard as their 27th best running back this season. That seems about right, but I'd move that ranking up to around 20 if you're playing PPR. Mostly because he's not only often targeted in the passing game, but his 74.2 percent catch percentage last season was among the best in the league for backs with 200+ snaps.
Outside of the dynamic duo there's no fantasy value for any other Bengals running back. Rex Burkhead could be a 2016 sleeper candidate, but I don't feel as good about his place in the offense under Zampese. There were points last season where Jackson tried to utilize Burkhead in various positions, but I don't foresee him getting the same attention in this season's offense. This will be especially true if Hill is able to reclaim his 2014 form, which so far in 2016, he seems capable of doing.