Fantasy football in 2012 may be remembered as the year of the rookie running back. Zero rookie running backs were drafted in the consensus top-11 at their position but three of them went on to be top-11 finishers. Perhaps the most sought after commodity on draft day is value and that’s exactly what Doug Martin, Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson provided. One similarity between many of fantasy football champions this year was that they featured one of these rookies or maybe Stevan Ridley or C.J. Spiller (other young value backs).
Last season saw a spike in workload of rookies, with three backs receiving 260+ carries compared zero in 2011. The workhorse rookie running back is an emerging trend in the NFL but not everyone is familiar with it yet. This makes it increasingly important to identify which rookies will be the next to emerge and provide great value to his fantasy owners.
Along with Eddie Lacy, the top candidate for top rookie rusher is Giovani Bernard out of University of North Carolina. Versatility is what sets Bernard apart from the rest of his class, as he excels in the running, receiving and return games. With all of his skills, Bernard has the potential to be a gold mine for fantasy points. In 2012, Bernard rushed for 12 touchdowns, caught five and returned two more on punts. He also averaged 7.4 yards per touch from scrimmage as a sophomore, meaning that he was incredibly dynamic with the ball in his hands.
Bernard boasts many talents but his biggest threat is his explosiveness. He rushed for four touchdowns of 40+ yards in just 10 games. If his skills and his surgically repaired right knee check out at the NFL Combine then Bernard will be the first running back off of the board. He is currently projected as an early second round pick but he is the type of player at a skill position that will see his stock rise leading up to draft day. Bernard would be a steal as a second round pick and could potentially become one of the best running backs in the league thanks to his wide array of game-breaking abilities.