The third-year player received his golden opportunity to prove he could be the lead back for the Bengals when Giovani Bernard went down due to a torn ACL, but other than a 111-yard performance against a soft Browns defense, Hill did almost nothing over the final stretch of 2016. In fact, that Browns game aside, he didn't post a YPC over 2.2 after Bernard was injured. Hill now faces a serious threat for his touches in the form of second-round rookie Joe Mixon, and while the 6-1, 235-pound Hill should at least be able to hang onto his role at the goal line and in short yardage spots, he could see his early down work dwindle if the rookie lives up to the scouting reports. Heading into the final year of his rookie contract, Hill will need to rise to the challenge if he wants to have a place in Cincinnati's future backfield plans.
If you drafted Hill last year, you surely came away disappointed — he was a first or second-round pick in most leagues and was expected to build on his impactful rookie year. That he didn't accomplish: his yards per carry fell by 29 percent and his overall receiving yardage fell by 63 percent. Nonetheless, a large part of life is just showing up, and Hill was able to do that. He played in 16 games for the second straight year, he was 10th in the league in rushing attempts, and he was tied for first in rushing touchdowns. He was one of the busiest backs in the scoring area, too (40 red-zone carries, 24 inside-10 carries, 13 goal-line attempts). His lack of involvement in the passing game was a killjoy for PPR formats, but if you hash out the numbers in basic-scoring leagues, Hill managed a No. 13 ranking at the position. Ah, those wonderful six-point plays. Perhaps Hill's confidence took a shot after two lost fumbles in a Week 2 victory over San Diego. The Bengals only gave Hill 29 carries over the next three weeks, and he appeared to run tentatively. He didn't have a fumble for 11 straight weeks, though he ended the year with two cough-ups in the last four games. Hill might not be able to get to last year's touchdown count, but he has an excellent chance to get back some of the efficiency he lost.
Coming out of LSU in 2014, Hill had an impressive football resume, but his pro future was clouded by multiple assault charges dating to high school. The Bengals, though, thought enough of him to pull the trigger in the second round. While expected to take a back seat to Giovani Bernard, the rookie proved to be an effective lead back when a series of injuries to Bernard opened the door. A big, punishing runner with good acceleration, Hill finished the season with three consecutive 100-yard games, and only Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster averaged more yards after contact among RBs with at least 100 carries. Hill also flashed some usefulness in the passing game, and could easily take on a three-down role if it weren't for Bernard's presence. But the two backs complement each other well, so as long as both remain healthy and Hill doesn't do something to run afoul of a league that now takes off-field incidents much more seriously, some sort of timeshare seems inevitable.
After selecting Hill in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, 55th overall, the Bengals evidently envision a long-term two-back system that includes Hill and Giovani Bernard, with Hill serving as the power source and Bernard providing the big-play ability. At 238 pounds with above average athleticism for his size, it didn't take long for Hill to make BenJarvus Green-Ellis irrelevant. With BJGE no longer in the mix, Hill could lead the Bengals in rushing touchdowns this year.