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Bengals want Leonard Fournette, per NFL Network

‘We want him’ is how one reporter is describing the Bengals’ interest in Leonard Fournette.

It now looks like LSU running back Leonard Fournette is in play for the Bengals in this year’s NFL Draft.

According to NFL Network reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala, the Bengals are strongly considering Fournette with the No. 9 pick.

“They are going very very heavy at running back,” Kinkhabwala said Thursday on an NFL Network segment. “And I can tell you this: If Leonard Fournette is available at 9, I was told in no uncertain terms, ‘we want him.’”

Kinkhabwala also added that the team isn’t happy with Jeremy Hill, and that’s why the Bengals will be going hard at running back in this draft. This isn’t the first time there’s been reports of the team being unhappy with Hill, but this is the first concrete report that they’ll strongly consider Fournette with the No. 9 pick.

If the Bengals just stay true to their board and take the best player available, there’s certainly a good chance Fournette is the top guy at that spot. The concern is that running back just isn’t a highly-valued position anymore, and even an elite back isn’t necessarily worthy of top-10 pick.

Yesterday, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin addressed that notion.

“It’s like anything. If the player is good enough, he warrants the pick no matter what position,” Tobin said. “There are players in this draft that are good enough and warrant the pick.”

And, Fournette could be the exception, as he’s definitely someone who should get strong consideration at that spot. Fournette would be off the board for sure by No. 9 if not for an injury-plagued 2016 season. He missed five games and gained ‘only' 843 yards and eight scores on 129 carries. That came after he was among the best players in college football in 2015, racking up 1,953 yards and 22 scores on 300 carries as a sophomore.

Even after taking a step back this past year, there’s a decent chance Fournette is off the board by No. 9. The Jaguars, Jets and Panthers all need running back help, and there’s also a chance that another team trades up to grab Fournette.

Perhaps this ‘report’ of the Bengals wanting Fournette is a means of getting a team to trade up with them. The problem with that is the Bengals already have 11 picks, so taking on any more seems unreasonable.

Take this report with a grain of salt, but I do think it’s accurate in the sense that Cincinnati wants a running back fairly high in this draft. They can’t afford to go into next season with Hill and a post-ACL tear Giovani Bernard as their top backs.