By far one of my favorite shows on television is HBO’s Hard Knocks. If you somehow have never heard of it, well, first, get out from under the rock. All kidding aside, the show takes viewers inside the training camp of a featured NFL team. This season, the camera crews followed the Cincinnati Bengals.
Every year, there seems to be a handful of fan favorites on each roster. In year’s past, guys like Danny Amendola and John Connor come to mind. Fast forward to 2013, and the undisputed favorite to both fans of the show, as well as the Bengals coaching staff, is rookie running back Giovani Bernard.
The dynamic rookie has been nothing short of impressive during camp and preseason games, and is quickly making a name for himself as the Bengals soon-to-be starting running back. Sure, BenJarvus Green-Ellis is still very much in the mix, but at the end of the day, talent will win out. From watching the show and reading reports out of Cincinnati, the Bengals coaching staff is absolutely in love with their top draft pick, and if you don’t think that will play a role in his playing time, you’re crazy. Running back coach Hue Jackson has repeatedly stated how good Bernard can be in this league.
“Having evaluated him and watched every game he played this year and had a chance to work him out, and having spent a lot of time with him,” Jackson said of Bernard, “he has that skill set where I think he could play and be an every down player.”
“He’s got great hands and makes people miss on the second level,” Gruden said. “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.”
I may not be a coach in the National Football League, but I am pretty high on Bernard as well, especially from a fantasy perspective. Many thought that Green-Ellis’ presence would hinder the immediate fantasy production of the rookie, but after four preseason games, it may turn out to be the other way around. Those same people felt that Bernard wouldn’t be as good in fantasy because he wouldn’t see work in goal line situations. If the preseason is any indication, he’ll be very busy in that department. In four games, Bernard scored three rushing touchdowns, all of which came from inside the five-yard line. Green-Ellis, on the other hand, failed to score. Last year, Green-Ellis was atrocious in the red zone. In 43 attempts from inside the 20, BJGE averaged just 2.2 yards per carry. Bernard is clearly the more dynamic, explosive back, and in my eyes, it’s only a matter of time before he takes over as the lead back in that offense.
Where to draft him?
According to Fantasy Calculator, Bernard is currently coming off of the board as the 24th running back, being drafted in the middle of the fourth round. Some notable guys going ahead of him are Darren McFadden, Lamar Miller and Eddie Lacy. I most certainly wouldn’t be opposed to taking the upside of Bernard over those guys. I think as the season progresses, Bernard will become even more of a featured part of that Bengals offense, and in my eyes, is a lock for at least a top-25 finish among fantasy running backs.
Oh yeah. Go watch Hard Knocks if you haven’t yet.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.