When I mention the words North Carolina, and you are thinking about sports, football proably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. In fact at a school that is so heavy in the basketball culture, it’s impressive how many good NFL prospects this football program produces. Today they took a step further toward that as redshirt sophomore running back Giovani “Gio” Bernard has chosen to pass on his final 2 years of eligibility to enter the 2013 NFL draft.
Bernard really burst onto the scene this season amassing just over 1,700 yards of offense and 17 total touchdowns. The surprising part for many is he had a nearly identical season in 2011 but no one really talked about it. In just 2 years he has been able to display a dynamic skill set that reminds me a little of Marshall Faulk when he was in college. He’s got a tight compact build, exceptional vision and balance and soft hands like a receiver. Other than individual accolades there was really nothing left for Bernard to prove by staying in school, so leaving now makes perfect sense.
Scouting snapshot-As I said, he’s built to run the football. Low pad level, feet like a ballerina and is very shifty. I liken a lot of his game to Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and I feel like McCoy Bernard can be a running and receiving threat in the NFL from day one. He changes direction well, reads the play and while he needs to be a little more patient and try to not turn every run into a touchdown if it isn’t there, the positives outweigh the negatives by a great deal.
In terms of a draft grade, I put Bernard as my no. 1 back and had him there a month ago under the assumption he was coming out. When we think about a round to draft him, unfortunately the running back position is rather under valued by the NFL, so putting him any higher than a 2nd round pick is unlikely. But I think there are easily enough teams in the NFL who need a presence like Bernard in their backfield, a home run threat who can stay on the field for all 3 downs and even return punt and kicks at a high level the he won’t make it pack the 2nd.
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