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Prospect watch for Browns, Bengals: Wyoming running back Brian Hill

The Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns are looking for backfield depth and will likely snag a runner in April’s draft. This year’s running back class flashes strength with Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and LSU superstar Leonard Fournette leading the pack. Yet it appears another tier of runners is impressing coaches and scouts at the NFL Combine this week.

Wyoming running back Brian Hill is a prospect to keep an eye on. He was impressive during his interview with the media on Day 1 and NFL teams alike. One scout called Hill the most intriguing runner in the class.

“I feel this kid is going to have immediate impact,” the scout said. “He demonstrates a wealth of talent as a runner that bodes well at the next level. He put up some hefty numbers in college, but some may question the level of competition. I look at it like this. The defenses he faced knew he was getting the ball and still couldn’t stop him. That’s like going to a gang fight by yourself and kicking everybody’s ass.”

The 6-foot, 218-pound Hill set a Wyoming record with 4,287 career rushing yards. He rushed for 1,860 yards in 2016, breaking the single-season record of 1,631 he set as a sophomore in 2015. He set a school record with 22 rushing touchdowns this past season.

Hill interviewed with 11 teams, including Minnesota, Kansas City, Denver, Green Bay and Seattle. He met with Bengals running backs coach Kyle Caskey briefly.

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Hill is a physical back with powerful leg drive to move the pile and quick feet. He’s a unique runner with deceptive speed and can attack the edge and make a play. Hill is difficult to bring down and gains yards after initial contact. He was a workhorse in the Cowboys’ pro-style offense.

Wyoming running backs coach Mike Bath, a former Miami University quarterback, may have described the pro prospect best:

“Brian is a violent runner who doesn’t shy away from contact. He has the desire and passion to be the best. He brings that type of determination to work every day. He’s a tough kid from East St. Louis, but his mother raised him right. Brian has a great personality but plays with a real edge and I love it. He has skills on the playing field you can’t teach.”

The Bengals’ potential interest is undoubtedly to groom a bell cow behind starting running back Jeremy Hill, who will be entering a contract year in 2017. The team’s backfield is looking thin with Giovani Bernard coming off injury and Rex Burkhead a free agent.

The same could be said for Cleveland, which placed a second-round tender on fourth-year undrafted running back Isaiah Crowell. Crowell earned a new contract after rushing for nearly 1,000 yards behind a porous offensive line. Duke Johnson is more a change-of-pace back and the team could benefit from having another workhorse like Crowell in its stable.

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