The Cincinnati Bengals are expected to address the running back position in the NFL draft, which starts Thursday. Many think a scatback type could boost the team’s offense and run game.
But a big back in their own backyard might be more appealing.
Michigan State’s Le'Veon Bell is an ideal fit for what the Bengals like to do in the ground game. He’s a powerful inside rusher with the ability to make one cut and head upfield.
Bell, a Columbus native, is said to be pushing up draft boards with draft day approaching. Several scouts confirmed that the former Spartan is projected as a second-round pick but has a chance to sneak into the late first round with Denver (No. 28) and Green Bay (No. 26) as likely candidates.
Other teams showing interest include Pittsburgh, the New York Jets, Oakland, Arizona, St. Louis, Atlanta and, of course, Cincinnati.
The Bengals are trying to build a troika of running backs behind starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who will turn 28 in July. Adding a workhouse at the backup position makes sense. Contrary to popular belief, the AFC North remains a ground-and-pound division and a versatile back is essential. Bell has drawn comparisons to former Bengals running back Corey Dillon as well as Texans Arian Foster.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Bell is a complete back with good speed, pass catching ability and a punishing running style. He was a true bell-cow for the Spartans, carrying 44 times for 210 yards and two touchdowns against Boise State. He finished the 2012 season rushing for 1,844 yards and 12 touchdowns behind a mediocre offensive line. Bell demonstrated explosiveness and durability throughout his three-year career at Michigan State. He carried 671 times for 3,346 yards and 33 touchdowns, and caught 78 passes for 531 yards and a score. Despite the high output in production, he still has plenty of tread left on the tires.
Bell, 21, enters the draft as a junior but due to graduate this summer, which shows his maturity and intelligence. He’s known as a high-character guy. Bell’s stock has been moving upward since his performance at the combine in February.
These are the days of the smaller, more compact runner but some teams still have the mindset of “go big or play special teams.” While Alabama’s Ed Lacy is being dissected like a lab frog due to injury concerns and running behind an O-line stacked with NFL talent, Bell is emerging as the favorite power back of some scouts.