As the 2017 NFL Draft nears, the Bengals have been frequently linked to the top running backs in this year’s draft class. The team has hosted Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon for visits in Cincinnati and attended the pro days of Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, Curtis Samuel, T.J. Logan, Elijah Hood and more running backs.
Yesterday, Jeremy Hill was asked on NFL Network about his thoughts on the Bengals taking a running back in this year’s NFL Draft. He apparently welcomes it and said, “they’re probably going to be my backup.”
.@Bengals hold No. 9 pick & could draft a RB?@JeremyHill33 doesn't mind: "(He's) probably going to be my backup." https://t.co/n4RgjjQTGq— NFL (@NFL) April 13, 2017
“Best available. That's the way the Bengals do it.” Hill said in response to why he thinks the Bengals hosted Fournette in Cincinnati this week. “And I would love to play with him. It would be a great backfield attack with us three ... It would be amazing. If I had a chance to play with him, that would be great.”
Hill added that he sleeps “very well at night” so if the Bengals want to draft a running back high, they can “go ahead and do it.”
It’s great that Hill has so much confidence after a poor season in which he totaled 839 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns on 222 attempts, for a 3.8 yard per carry average. That YPC average was boosted by two big games against the Browns, his only games with 100+ rushing yards in 2016. The Bengals' first matchup against the Browns saw Hill total 168 yards (18.7 yards per carry) and in the second, he accumulated 111 yards (4.4 yards per carry).
While the hope is that the Bengals are able to add an instant-impact running back who can improve the ground game and add another dimension to the offense, the Bengals rarely let rookie running backs start, unless an injury to the starter occurs. So, maybe Hill’s confidence is warranted.
In Giovani Bernard’s rookie season he didn’t start any games (though, he did receive a considerable workload and the most rushing attempts he’s seen in any season). When Hill was a rookie, it took an injury to Bernard for him to get his shot at the starting role. From there, he proved his ability, took off as an impressive force for Cincinnati and never looked back. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been nearly as impressive since the completion of his rookie season, and that’s among the reasons why the Bengals are considering drafting a top-tier running back this year. Hill’s rookie contract also expires after the 2017 season, which adds to the Bengals’ need at running back.
Hill also discussed how he’s working hard this offseason to improve his game and ensure he does maintain his starting role.
“I think for me and my game, I want to work on my yards per carry and yards after contact and that's building my strength up, stamina and quickness and agility,” he said. “So that's something I really want to work on going into next season and that's something I've been doing every single day.”
What do you think? Will Hill be the Bengals’ day one starter at running back in 2017?