NFL Draft: If Bengals want offense, this is direction they should go

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Running back Christian McCaffrey of Stanford runs the 40-yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Running back Christian McCaffrey of Stanford runs the 40-yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

LSU running back Leonard Fournette made it into our Sports Today morning column two days in a row, which is a sure sign the Cincinnati Bengals won't bother drafting him.

Of course if they can render all our pre-draft speculation meaningless they will, right?

But there’s still plenty of time to kill before the NFL draft, so here’s something else to consider: Maybe the running back they should zero in on is not Fournette but Christian McCaffrey from Stanford.

I say this because if they aren’t going to provide the defense with a young playmaker, stockpiling dynamic offensive players can’t hurt.

SPORTS TODAY: Scooter driving Reds, Browns consider wasting top pick, etc.

While it’s not clear quarterback Andy Dalton can carry a team on his back for a long stretch of the season like a Ben Roethlisberger, Dalton thrived in 2015 when he was surrounded by great talent.

Last year he took a step back as his supporting cast was far less complete, which leads to the conclusion the offense around him essentially has to be “too big to fail” as long as Dalton is the Bengals quarterback.

The weapons Dalton has at his disposal are fine – especially when Tyler Eifert and A.J. Green are healthy – but he could use more.

If the Bengals pick Fournette, they will have a classic power back with breakaway speed – a more talented Jeremy Hill, basically. With both in the fold, they’ll most likely be inclined to rely on a classic NFL pro-style, downhill running game. I love that style, but the offensive line might not be up for it after struggling last season and losing its two best players in free agency.

That means instead of a second power back, the Bengals might be better off adding another Giovani Bernard.

That, to me, is who McCaffrey is: Big enough to run between the tackles on occasion but more suited to operate in space. A shifty back who can catch passes and do a little bit of everything.

With more space players, the Bengals can spread things out and give Dalton easier decisions and easier throws to execute, though he’ll have execute them at a high level.

That may or may not work, but the likelihood it does probably exceed the chances for success of a power attack if Cincinnati still doesn’t have a road-grading offensive line this fall.

READ MORE at Marcus Hartman’s “Cus Words Blog

There was a time the AFC North was known as defense-and-run-the-ball division, but we’ve already seen Pittsburgh and Baltimore shift away from that, surrounding their veteran quarterbacks with perimeter playmakers and attacking that way.

Maybe now it’s time for Cincinnati to follow suit.

🤔 https://t.co/SAik3C7duW— NFL (@NFL) April 9, 2017

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