Jeremy Hill’s rookie season was a resounding success. Coming into 2014, it was supposed to be the Giovani Bernard show. Owners spent a 2nd round pick on Bernard while the rookie Hill was often available in the 9th and 10th rounds of fantasy drafts.

Bernard started out scorching hot, but by November it was Hill who was carrying fantasy owners to victory. The tables have turned in 2015 with Hill going in the mid-2nd round and Bernard available in rounds 5 and 6. But is Hill’s upside being ignored? Let’s find out.

Jeremy Hill vs. Giovani Bernard

Although Bernard assumed feature back duties early in the season, Hill took over bell-cow duties in the middle of the year and finished as the hottest running back in the NFL (leading rusher of the final nine games of the year).

Forward thinking owners knew Bernard’s monopolization of the RB touches wouldn’t last- the Bengals essentially admitted Bernard wasn’t a bell-cow when they took Hill with an early draft pick in 2014. Here is how Hill finished last year:
jervsgio2Pretty impressive stats for to finish the season. Most rookies hit a wall, but Hill actually got stronger as the year went on. Kudos to the coaching staff for working him in.

Giovani Bernard’s Injury Risk

According to the fantastic site SportsInjuryPredictor.com, there is quite a difference in the injury risks of Hill vs. Bernard:

PlayerInjury Risk
Jeremy Hill14% (8th lowest among RBs)
Giovani Bernard65% (10th highest among RBs)

While predicting injuries is a very inexact science, Bernard has shown very little ability to stay healthy dating back to college. How did Hill fare last year when Bernard was off the field?

jervsgio1The lack of targets is a bit concerning, but it’s clear that Hill would have massive upside as a lead runner in the somewhat likely event Bernard gets hurt again.

Offseason Moves and Coaching Staff

One great thing about Jeremy Hill being on the Bengals is their coaching staff, especially offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Jackson has a reputation for being a “talent maximizer”, or setting up his offense to feature his players’ strengths. Remember, Jackson is the only coach who was able to coax the superstar ability out of the enigmatic Darren McFadden.

Everyone in the league knows Andy Dalton cannot carry the team to victory by himself, and the Bengals have admitted through their drafts. Spending 2nd round picks in back-to-back years on running backs (Bernard and Hill) and drafting two offensive linemen with their first two picks this year (Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher) shows that they know Dalton needs a strong supplemental running game.

The Bengals ran their highest percent of run plays since 2009, and with a better defense to hold leads (Geno Atkins is apparently back to his old self) that number is unlikely to decrease. Jeremy Hill may not have the reception upside of a Le’Veon Bell or C.J. Anderson, but he is as good of a bet to lead the NFL in rushing as anyone. He is a mighty fine second round pick in fantasy leagues.