The Cincinnati Bengals used their second-round pick on a running back for the second year in a row, selecting Jeremy Hill from LSU to back up new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s contention that he wants to run the football more.
Last year the Bengals made Giovani Bernard the first running back selected in the draft with the 37th overall pick. Friday night, Hill became the second running back taken in this year’s draft, going 55th overall, which was one spot after Tennessee grabbed Washington RB Bishop Sankey, a former Dayton resident.
Hill is a 6-foot-2, 233-pound early entrant who rushed for 1,401 yards and 16 touchdowns while earning first team All-Southeastern Conference honors during his sophomore season at LSU. He also caught 18 passes for 181 yards.
He played in 23 games for the Tigers with 16 starts, and his 6.25 yards per carry average ranks second in conference history behind Auburn’s Bo Jackson (6.62) and Alabama’s Bobby Marlow (6.27).
“I think I’m the most complete back in this draft,” Hill said. “I’m a bigger back, but I can also score 50-yard touchdowns and make long runs and accelerate and finish runs. I can do the short-yardage stuff, I can get the tough yardage and also I’m a great pass catcher.
“I think being a complete guy, the team can create multiple roles for me. I don’t have to be an every-down guy, I don’t have to be a short-yardage back. I can define my role rather than other guys who can only do one or two things.”
Hill joins a crowded backfield that features starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis in addition to Bernard, along with Cedric Peerman and Rex Burkhead, a sixth-round pick a year ago.
“In my opinion, you can never have too many of them,” Jackson said.
The Bengals ranked 18th of 32 teams in rushing last year, averaging 109.7 yards per game.
Hill sat out the 2013 season opener against TCU for a violation of team rules stemming from a bar fight, but Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said he is confident the running back’s character will not be an issue.
“We have a lot of confidence in the people we know inside the LSU program,” Lewis said.
Hill also was adamant that character will not be a concern and said he sent a long letter to every NFL team, professing as much.
“With my history, it was jumping in front of it before it hurt me,” he said. “I know I don’t have any character issues and the people who know me very well know I don’t have any character issues. It was just letting any team that was interested in me know what kind of man I am.
“I was a young man who made mistakes, and I don’t know too many young men who haven’t made mistakes.”