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Mailbag: NFL Draft maneuvering and the futures of current Bengals running backs

Would the Bengals move back from No. 9 overall? If they select a running back, what does it mean for the futures of Jeremy Hill and/or Giovani Bernard?

Kansas City Chiefs v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals and the NFL Draft have an odd relationship with each other. The team has used the platform, particularly recently, as the strongest means of building their team. After whiffing on so many high picks in the years before Marvin Lewis was hired as the head coach in 2003, the current regime has had a higher rate of success with their picks.

As the annual NFL festivities quickly approach, our faithful readers have the many possibilities for the team on their minds. If you want your question to be featured on this regular post, send them to us on Twitter @CJAnthonyCUI or @CincyJungle!

It’s ironic that this question came our way, because on this week’s Orange and Black Insider, we discussed the possibility of the team possibly sacrificing some of their 11 accumulated picks in an effort to move up for players they truly want. The thought is a contrast to letting things fall their way and take the best of what’s left when they are on the clock, but, as we’ve seen in the past, this is a regime that likes to hoard picks and let things come to them in the draft.

The Bengals began fully functioning as an NFL franchise in 1968. In that time, the Bengals have only moved up in the NFL Draft three times in the span. Think about that for a second—might that be some small correlation into their lack of a championship? If you want a specific player, sometimes you have to give up commodities to better your team. It’s not a sentiment the Bengals seem to agree with.

To directly answer Alberto’s question, there is a distinct possibility the Bengals trade back from No. 9 to accumulate yet another pick. Say Leonard Fournette, Solomon Thomas, Corey Davis, Mike Williams, Jonathan Allen, Myles Garrett, Derek Barnett and O.J. Howard are inexplicably all gone by the time they are on the clock, they might field offers from other teams. On one hand, it would make sense if the remaining names don’t bring the value they want with a top-10 pick.

On the other hand, that scenario is highly unlikely to play out and it’s only the third time in 15 years the Bengals would have a top-10 pick with Lewis as their head coach (2003, 2008). Even though most draftniks think a team could get a similarly talented player from about pick No. 8 into the early twenties, Cincinnati needs an impact guy, and most of those appear to be top-10 guys.

While the “best player available” strategy has given the team high marks recently, the on-field yields haven’t paralleled the compliments. Staying pat and moving back hasn’t always been the most sound of strategies.

While Kevin Zeitler was a nice pick in 2012, some preferred David DeCastro, who the team passed up on in a trade back, only to to see him land with the Steelers. In 2004, the team moved back, hoping that Steven Jackson would fall their way. He went two picks earlier to the Rams, who were the ones that made the trade with Cincinnati only to take the back they supposedly wanted. They settled for Chris Perry, and the rest there is history.

Additionally, in 2008, most had the sense the Bengals wanted USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. They stayed put at No. 9 (coincidence?) and allowed the Saints to leapfrog them to take Ellis, and they subsequently settled for Keith Rivers. Ellis had a solid career with New Orleans and won a Super Bowl with them, while Rivers was one of the biggest disappointments in the Lewis era.

So, the Bengals could very well trade out of the No. 9 pick, but I’m not sure it’s wise. Take a chance, stick with a top-10 pick and try to get a guy who can help you right away.


As we sit here in early April, I’ll confidently say that neither of those scenarios are playing out in 2017. Is there concern that Giovani Bernard might not be ready for the early part of this year? I bet. Are the coaches worried they will never see the same Jeremy Hill towards the end of 2014? Totally possible.

However, both of the guys will be in the team’s 2017 plans. Hill is in the last year of his rookie contract and remains relatively affordable for a guy with 30 career touchdowns (a touch under $1.2 million). Additionally, the Bengals gave Bernard a nice extension last offseason, showing their long-term trust in him.

With Rex Burkhead bolting to New England and the recently re-signed Cedric Peerman being a special teams ace, there’s room for another in the group with Hill and Bernard. And, for those asking about a possible trade for Hill, what would other teams give up for him?

However, the big question remains of how the touches will be divvied up in 2017.

On paper, the Bengals have a great one-two-punch with Hill and Bernard. Ground-and-pound an opposing defense with Hill, then gash them with the speed and versatility of Bernard. Yet, for reasons both known and unknown, it hasn’t materialized into a truly consistent threat.

Could it be that neither Hill nor Bernard are every-down NFL backs? Or, which may be more worrisome, are they players that can be relied on for a truckload of touches, but the Bengals haven’t found a way to properly harness that talent?

Whatever the answer may be, it appears as if Cincinnati is still in search for a back that can be on the field on any given down. So far, the club has been heavily linked to LSU standout Leonard Fournette, as well as troubled Oklahoma star, Joe Mixon. Whatever your thoughts on some of the stars at the position, the Bengals seem to still be searching for “the bell cow guy.”

However, I’ll reiterate: even if they use a high pick on a guy who they think fits that bill, there’s little reason to believe Bernard and Hill won’t be on the roster this year. What will be interesting is if Lewis will actually trust a rookie with a high draft designation with a significant role early in their career.