by Jack Cassidy on Mar 5, 2012 8:30 PM EST
The University of Cincinnati staged its annual pro day on Friday, with running back Isaiah Pead and defensive tackle Derek Wolfe taking center stage.
Bengals RB coach Jim Anderson and special teams coach Darrin Simmons attended the workout and were described as having "spent a lot of time talking with Isaiah Pead," according to CBS Sportsline's Paul Dehner Jr.
Pead ran for 1,259 yards in 2011, scoring 12 TDs and averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He also accounted for 319 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver. That ability is intriguing. A running back with the potential to catch balls is likely to be high on Jay Gruden's wish list heading into the offseason.
He's no freight train like Cedric Benson, standing at 5'11" and weighing 200 pounds. But with the suggestion that the Bengals are heading toward a "committee" of running backs, he could be just what they are after.
With the Oakland Raiders placing their franchise tag on Tyvon Branch, the stage is set for the departure of Michael Bush. The Bengals have long been touted as having an interest in Bush, and with the most cap space in the league, they remain front-runners to snag him.
If this were to happen, Cincy likely won't draft a running back in the first round, which makes the selection of Pead in the middle rounds seem much more probable. He has a wholly different skill set than Bush and would fit well in a dual-threat or triple-threat running back system.
He might not have the ability to be a franchise back, but with Bush likely to take the majority of snaps and the reasonable third-round price tag that Pead will carry, he won't be expected to be that guy, at least not initially.
He is a versatile player with the ability to be a threat in the receiving game. He also has competent punt-returning skills.
Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com commented that one of Anderson's focuses on Friday was on Pead's ability to "catch the ball." This is an indication of how the running back position is changing under Gruden this offseason.
Anderson was not looking for Pead to bulldoze players, which would suggest that someone else will fill that role in 2012, whether it be Cedric Benson, Michael Bush or someone else. Instead, Anderson was looking at his ability to do everything else, further stressing the ongoing rumblings of a committee of backs.
Anderson will get another opportunity to see Pead perform before the draft when Paul Brown Stadium plays host to local players for a day next month. If ever there was an opportunity to sell yourself to a team, Pead has it with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals have a number of holes that need to be filled in the 2012 draft, but in what order they will do so remains to be seen. We will have a better idea of how Marvin Lewis and company are going to approach the draft when free agency gets going in a few weeks' time.