The Cincinnati Bengals are scouting some of the top running backs in the NFL draft. Today, they are hosting LSU’s Leonard Fournette for a pre-draft visit.
Fournette is considered by many as the no. 1 RB in this year’s draft class by many. He is not the first running back Cincinnati has visited with. They met with Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon and Flordia State’s Dalvin Cook and running backs coach Kyle Caskey visited Texas running back D’Onta Foreman at his pro day.
Fournette averaged 6.2 yards-per-carry and scored 40 touchdowns over a three-year stint with the Tigers. An ankle injury last season caused the 6’1” back to play just seven games. He was held to under 1,000 yards for the first time but still notched 6.5 yards-per-carry.
The Bengals are expected to take a running back in the draft with one of their 11 picks. Fournette, though, is tabbed as a top-five pick in most mock drafts, with his popular landing spots being Jacksonville (4), New York (6), and Carolina (8). Fournette met with the Panthers yesterday.
A good fit?
The Bengals are down a man in the backfield after Rex Burkhead signed with New England. Jeremy Hill, the darling of the 2014 season, has gone through a two-year drought. Despite 20 touchdowns, Hill has been held to under four yards-per-carry in each of the last two seasons.
Giovani Bernard is the duel-threat option but is coming off a torn ACL that ended his season in mid-November. Bernard was the main starter in 2014, but a big workload caused him to miss three games before Hill’s coming out party led Cincinnati to the playoffs.
Fournette would definitely bring the thunder to Bernard’s lightning. But the Bengals’ offensive line is not built at the moment for a 1,000-yard rusher. As far as the front-five is concerned, only two spots — left guard and center — are filled. The other three remain a mystery with Andre Smith, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher, Christian Westerman, and T.J. Johnson looking to be the answer.
If Fournette were to fall, then it could be wise for the Bengals to add his big-play capabilities. He now joins a long list of potential first-round targets for Cincinnati. Of the multiple mock drafts out there, Rueben Foster, Solomon Thomas, Corey Davis, Mike Williams, O.J. Howard, and many others have been mentioned.
There’s always one or two players that slide in the draft, now the Bengals are testing whether to pull the trigger if Fournette is one of them.
Cincinnati has not drafted a running back in the top 10 since Ki-Jana Carter in 1995.