Thursday, 13 August 2015 00:00

Cincy's backfield: The value of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard

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Cincy's backfield: The value of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard Navin Rajagopalan/Flickr

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When it comes to finding a premium RB1 to lead your team, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better situation than Cincinnati. Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson loves to run like Blake Bortles loves to throw to Allen Robinson. Last season, the Bengals averaged 30 rushing attempts per game, which ranked sixth overall among NFL teams. Only the quarterback-challenged Texans, Rex Ryan's Jets, run-heavy Seattle, Carolina and the DeMarco Murray-led Cowboys ran the ball more.

Of course, you can't have a good running game without a talented running back and the Bengals found a gem with rookie Jeremy Hill. A second-round pick out of LSU in 2014, Hill blew the doors off any tempered expectations in his rookie season, finishing with 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns on 5.1 yards per carry.

Hill saved his best for the final stretch of the season, amassing nearly 400 yards over his last three games while averaging about 24 attempts per game to go along with 3 of his 9 total touchdowns. It's always important to notice how young players finish out the season as it can serve as a tell-tale sign of what's in store for the following year.

In terms of ADP, Hill is currently being drafted as the 10th overall running back, a great value considering he's going just after LeSean McCoy, a player not a lot of people are high on this season.

A healthy RB is a good RB

When the season finally ended, Hill answered several questions a fantasy owner would have when drafting a potential RB1 and one of the most important was his durability. With no injuries at all in 2014 and nothing lingering from his college days either, Hill embodied the kind of reliability we love to see among younger running backs at a position that's one of the hardest to stay healthy at.

Stellar supporting cast 

Hill also has the benefit of running behind one of the better offensive lines in the league, with left tackle Andrew Whitworth putting together one of his best seasons ever. The line suffered a little bit due to fellow tackle Andre Smith missing time, but he's back now and should help solidify what was already a stout run-blocking group.

The receivers in Cincinnati aren't too shabs either, with Top 5 wideout A.J. Green helping to keep defenses honest. Green was sidelined last season with turf toe and missed two games. Turf toe is an injury that can linger, so he might be at risk to aggravate it in 2015. Still, he's among the most talented of wideouts when he's healthy, and Hill can only benefit.

How Hill got where he is and what you should look for in matchups

Hill's first big game came as a result of opportunity (like most great fantasy performances do). When then-starter Bernard injured his hip in Week 8, causing him to leave the game and miss the next three contests, Hill stepped up and flourished.

In his first true start as a Bengal, Hill feasted on a great matchup against an offensively inept Jacksonville team and took off. It's always a good idea to start a running back going against a team that struggles to score since it often leads to more rushing opportunities for the winning team. Hill finished with 154 yards on what was a season-high 24 carries for him up to that point in addition to 2 touchdowns. He solidified his role in Jackson's offense with that performance and would go on to have four more 100-yard games and maintained his role as the team's top back even when Bernard returned.

Bernard still a factor

While it might be apparent Hill is the top gun, backup Giovani Bernard still poses a threat to steal touches even after a dominant season from Hill. Bernard averaged a solid 4.0 yards per carry on 680 yards and five touchdowns of his own in 2014. More importantly, Bernard caught 43 passes for 349 yards. His ability to get up the field after the catch is very good and will likely keep him relevant in Cincinnati's offense. Of the total running back workload, Hill finished with 222 carries to Gio's 168, which isn't a huge discrepancy considering Bernard missed three game.

One factor working against Bernard is injury risk. He already has one surgically repaired knee dating back to his college days in North Carolina to go along with a hip injury last season which caused him to miss time. While he still managed to turn in a solid season, Bernard remains a high-risk player due to his inability to stay healthy.

Knowing when to use Hill in DFS

If you play daily fantasy, knowing which particular game a running back will cash in is key. One variable that factored into the Bengals success running the ball was home field advantage. The Bengals ran with a 31.9 attempts per game average in the old jungle, which makes sense considering they tended to get out to quick leads at home.

Final verdict

If you're drafting in the 7-10 range in your redraft league, Hill is definitely among the top running backs available. He's in a better situation than LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray, and will likely eat up chunks of yardage due to the offense he's in and the talented offensive line blocking for him.



Last modified on Friday, 03 March 2017 12:34
George Banko

George Banko started talking about fantasy football shortly after graduating college. He started as an intern at before working as a staff writer for Fantasy Knuckleheads. He currently contributes to the Fantasy Hot Read podcast, which is available on itunes. He also educated himself on player evaluation and is a graduate of The Scouting Academy in 2015, which is an online course run by former NFL Scout Dan Hatman. He started Fantasy Football Helpers as a blog in 2011 and converted it to a full-scale website in 2014. Read more.

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