Giovani Bernard may be the most dynamic runner in this year’s draft class. He has a versatile skill set, terrific speed, makes great cuts and possesses very strong hands for his position. However, as talented as he is, there is one thing keeping him from potentially becoming a fantasy superstar.
A starting job.
The Cincinnati Bengals selected Bernard, the first running back off the board, with their second round pick in April’s draft, despite having BenJarvus Green-Ellis already manning the backfield. While Green-Ellis is a solid option, he won’t make defenders miss, won’t pose as a threat to catch passes out of the backfield and isn’t nearly as explosive as his rookie teammate. With that being said, perhaps Bernard takes over as the team’s every-down back at some point during the regular season. Hey, he’s already caught the eye of RB coach Hue Jackson.
“Having evaluated him and watched every game he played. … He has a skill set where I think he could play and be an every-down player,” Jackson said (via Bengals.com).
Clearly strong praise towards a rookie back, but for good reason. Bernard will provide another dimension to this offense. Rumblings out of Cincinnati indicated that Bernard could very well be used as a wide receiver in many situations this season, which will add to his burgeoning fantasy value, especially in PPR formats. It makes sense, considering Green-Ellis’ longest reception went for 13 yards last year and only caught 22 balls. Meanwhile, Bernard was a productive pass-catcher in his days at North Carolina, hauling in 92 balls for 852 yards and six scores over his collegiate career. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden realizes how talented his rookie back is.
“He’s got great hands and makes people miss on the second level,” Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said of Bernard earlier this offseason. “Andy [Dalton] needs some of those short passes that turn into 25-yard gains. It’s a lot easier on a quarterback. Instead of grinding out every first down with the exception of throwing one deep to A.J. [Green] every now and then, we need some guys to get better running after the catch and breaking tackles after contact.”
If this positive talk continues, Bernard should see his fantasy value climb higher and higher. Via Fantasy Calculator, Bernard’s current ADP is 6.06, making him the 30th running back coming off the board. I only expect his ADP to rise because his upside is just too darn high. Guys going a little bit ahead of him such as Ryan Mathews and Rashard Mendenhall aren’t nearly as appealing to me, so I’d take a shot on the rookie before them. And oh, guess which running back is being drafted two picks after Bernard? You may have guessed it. His teammate, Green-Ellis.
Looks like many people fully expect Bernard to land a starting job for the Bengals at some point this season, and if he does, watch out.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.