As the Cincinnati Bengals prepare to extend long-term pieces like Joe Burrow, difficult cap decisions will occur. One of those predicaments is what to do at running back. Joe Mixon will be 27 by week one and is unlikely to stay on the team at his current cap hit past the upcoming season. They can save $10 million by releasing him after June 1st. When the cap crunch hits, the Bengals will not have the luxury of paying a running back.
Take a look at the leading rusher from the last 14 Super Bowls and their base salary: pic.twitter.com/sBC97Upzh0
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) February 13, 2023
The 2023 NFL Draft class is one of the deepest and most talented rushing groups in recent memory which puts the Bengals in a prime position to draft a replacement or pick up a complementary piece. Here are three prospects that Cincinnati should consider drafting on day two.
Devon Achane – Texas A&M
The fastest player in the draft is Texas A&M running back Devon Achane. The speedster was also a track star at the university, running a personal record of 10.14 seconds in the 100-meter dash. That explosiveness pops on film.
Devon Achane é um nome para ficar de olho no Combine.
Com background no atletismo o RB de Texas A&M era um dos jogadores mais rápidos do college e é um grande candidato a quebrar o recorde do John Ross.
RB com explosão, footwork e COD acima da media.pic.twitter.com/yaibArJRmq
— The Pick Is In (@ThePickIsInBR) February 5, 2023
Achane is a threat to take any play to the house. However, he comes with faults. Just a slender 5’9 185 pounds, he struggles between the tackles and does not add much as a pass protector. His speed would be a game-changer in the running back room. He could also be a lethal weapon for Burrow in the receiving game.
With Achane's skillset (speed, agility, vision), he should be excellent after the catch.
This time, he shows good concentration to bring in the catch and absorb the hit, before surviving contact several more times on the way to an impressive score. pic.twitter.com/o364geODM8
— Dynasty Zoltan (Mike Garai) (@DynastyZoltanFF) February 13, 2023
His size did not prevent him from having a very productive collegiate career, rushing for 2,376 yards and 21 touchdowns in three seasons. He may not be an every down back right away, but Achane has one of the highest ceilings in the 2023 draft class.
Roschon Johnson – Texas
Some Bengals fans would love to draft Bijan Robinson with their first-round pick. Robinson would be a home-run addition to the offense, but it is unlikely he falls to pick 28. A nice consolation prize would be his sidekick at Texas, Roschon Johnson. He had a respectable career for the Longhorns, rushing for over 2000 yards and 23 touchdowns. He is a powerful back with a 6’0 225 pound frame.
Roschon Johnson REFUSED to go down 💪 pic.twitter.com/SnUm3hwqbR
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 19, 2021
He has a three-down skillset and is one of the better pass protectors in the class. If the team opts to let Samaje Perine walk in free agency, Johnson would immediately slot into that role and potentially be an upgrade.
RBs make $ in pass pro — nice rep from Roschon Johnson. pic.twitter.com/S1lQvdwED0
— Ryan Fowler (@_RyanFowler_) February 1, 2023
Johnson has some Dameon Pierce and Tyler Allgeier to his game. He could be a late day two/early day three pickup that leads a backfield. He has experience working in tandem with a star running back, which would be perfect with Mixon. When Cincinnati decides to move on, Johnson can step into the feature role.
I’m not opposed to the Bengals targeting either Texas running back in this draft.
As tremendous as Bijan Robinson is, Roschon Johnson is a stud, certainly has bell cow potential.
Averaged 6.0 per carry and 9.1 yard per catch as RB2 at Texas last season. pic.twitter.com/V2KaxxBxIw
— Willie Lutz (@willie_lutz) February 11, 2023
Eric Gray – Oklahoma
Joe Burrow and the Bengals love to run five-wide sets and utilize running backs in the receiving game. Mixon has flashed as a pass catcher but sees limited third-down reps due to his pass protection. Perine is serviceable but has limited athletic tools. Eric Gray is the player that Bengals fans hoped Chris Evans would be. He is a natural receiver and route runner out of the backfield.
That catch and run for Eric Gray looked very similar to this play from 7v7 in practice pic.twitter.com/TetepElcLi
— Jarrett Bailey (@JBaileyNFL) February 4, 2023
Cincinnati has somewhat moved away from Zac Taylor’s zone-blocking roots. Gray’s most natural fit, but he can thrive in any scheme. He was spectacular during his senior season at Oklahoma, rushing 6.4 yards per carry. He best projects as a third-down back but is a powerful enough runner to grow into a primary role.
Eric Gray in space in a tricky tackle, he regularly leaves defenders grabbing air. #FantasyFootball pic.twitter.com/kT0w9inJFd
— Jeremy (@PopesFFH) February 9, 2023