Amidst a weak running back class, North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard is ready to make the most of this opportunity to be one of the first ball-carriers off of the board when the 2013 NFL Draft rolls around.
What Bernard brings to the table is an explosive outside runner who does a great job of using his quickness and agility to pick up yards and move the chains. With outstanding foot work and lateral movement, Bernard puts defenders in poor position to make tackles and never seems to waste opportunities for more yards.
Although quickness is his forte, Bernard is also a tough runner who keeps his legs churning and powers through tackles. You almost never see him fall backward on runs and will occasionally carry tacklers when he gets a full head of steam.
Above all, his production is the key. In only two seasons as the Tar Heels’ starting runner, Bernard racked up 1,481 rushing yards and 25 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry throughout his time at Chapel Hill, using outstanding vision, patience and effort to maximize his output.
On top of his effectiveness as a runner, Bernard also possesses some value as a receiving threat out of the backfield. During his time with North Carolina, he hauled in 92 passes for 852 yards and six touchdowns. With soft hands and terrific concentration, Bernard would be a great fit for an NFL offense that incorporates its running backs into the passing game.
There are, obviously, some knocks on Bernard as a pro prospect, though.
The former Tar Heel is a bit small (5’8’’, 202) for an NFL back, and doesn’t possess the type of power needed to shed tackles consistently at the next level. His lack of size will also hurt him as a pass blocker, something that he already lacks polish with.
Despite his lack of size and strength, Bernard won’t overwhelm you in the speed department either. He doesn’t have the extra gear to break away in the open field and can get caught from behind.
The biggest concern, however, is durability. Bernard tore his ACL in 2010, costing him his entire freshman season. The knee injuries continued in 2012, costing him two games. Throughout his college career, he also battled shoulder and leg injuries that slowed him at times. Especially for a running back with a small frame, it’s not promising to see that he’s already having these kinds of durability issues.
Bernard made a smart move in declaring for the draft after his sophomore year. He’s already at the head of the 2013 running back class and will surely have some opportunities to prove his worth early assuming he can stay healthy.
Every NFL prospect has flaws. With Bernard, the positives easily outweigh the negatives.
Projection: Late-First t0 Mid-Second Round