Although not in the first round, being selected 37th overall still has a lot pressure attached to it. For one, you are still considered to be round one quality for less than first round pay or media attention. A second round round player is also expected to slot in to position and be ready to take up a starting position at the beginning of the season, just like anyone drafted in the first round.
Then, of course, there is the added pressure of the fact that 37th pick running back Giovani Bernard was also picked as the first overall running back in the 2013 NFL Draft. The Bengals clearly have big plans and high hopes for Bernard, and would ideally like to see him become the starter before too long.
So the big question is, how’s Bernard living up to all of the pressure?
Very well, actually. His main headline through the rookie mini camp in the middle of May was the comparisons that head coach Marvin Lewis was inviting in reference to Bernard’s abilities. Stating that he is similar to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice in size and speed, but is far ahead in terms of where Rice was by now. He compared him quite favorably to running backs Doug Martin and Maurice Jones-Drew, citing his speed, strength and work ethic as his main reasons for this.
During the Bengals’ OTAs, Bernard has proven that he is capable of something that the Bengals have not seen in a running back in quite sometime: being a pass-catcher. The Bengals have been using him in a great deal of passing situations, but particularly in the implementation of the bubble-screen. His college stats really speak for themselves in the pass game. Bernard’s 852 yards in two years as the North Carolina Tar Heel‘s running back are actually greater than current starting running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis‘s entire career stats.
Green-Ellis is, of course, Bernard’s biggest competition for the starting spot in the back-field. The next question is, does Bernard have what it takes to pass out Green-Ellis and take the starting spot from him? Well, quite simply, the early signs point to yes.
At the moment, Green-Ellis is still the starter and until sometime in the 2013 season, it will probably remain that way. Going into training camp, Bernard does have one grace: he is probably not expected to surpass Green-Ellis, but is not likely to be looking for that grace any time soon. With a work ethic rarely seen in backs of his talent, Green-Ellis will have a lot of competition on his hands.
Bernard is excellent in the open field and constantly pushes for the extra yards after contact, both things that unfortunately Green-Ellis is not as well known for, and along with being known more for catching passes than Green-Ellis and his speed, the balance could tilt in favor in Bernard before too long.
Expect to see Bernard taking the majority of reps by Week 5 of the 2013 season.
Simon Greene – Cincinnati Bengals Writer. Be sure to follow Simon on Twitter @simongreene88