Out of all the Cincinnati Bengals player who will have significant fantasy football value this year, rookie running back Giovani Bernard will likely have the biggest impact of any newcomer, and will likely finish second on the team in terms of fantasy point behind receiver A.J. Green. Bernard is a quick and instinctive running back, who’s great between the hashes and shows patience to let blocks and holes develop before bursting through.
- Strengths: Bernard was one of the best backs in college last year, ranking fourth in the nation with an average of 198.1 all-purpose yards per game. He has an instant burst which gets him to top speed in a hurry. Bernard has good foot frequency and can change direction on a dime without losing much speed. He runs low, with good pad level and balance, which helps him run through arm tackles. Bernard does a good job of allowing blocks to fully develop in front of him and will wait until the right time to turn on the speed. He has great hands as a receiver out of the backfield and causes mismatch problems on wheel routes.
- Weaknesses: His frame is maxed out and he lacks the size to be a workhorse at the pro level.
- 2013 Outlook: Bernard should start his career as a change of pace back and big play option for the Bengals behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Some think he could surpass Green-Ellis as the starter sometime during 2013.
- Dynasty Outlook: If Bernard shows the ability to take the NFL beating and stay healthy he could perform like a top 20 running back because of his big play ability.
- NFL Comparison: A DeAngelo Williams clone.
Williams came into the NFL in a similar manner as Bernard will in Cincinnati with BenJarvus Green-Ellis already being the established #1 back. He was an complementary back to DeShaun Foster in the Carolina backfield while compiling a of 501 rushing yards (5.3 yards per carry) and one touchdown on the year to go with 33 catches (36 targets) for 313 yards. Williams did miss three games due to an ankle injury, so those numbers could have been better, but the lack of touchdowns could be similar with Ellis likely being goaline/redzone back.
All in all, I think the numbers Williams put up will be very similar to what Bernard is able to do this year, which may come as a bit of a downer to most people, as he’s widely viewed as a 1,000+ yard back. Marvin Lewis reluctance to give rookies significant snaps (outside of injury) will likely lead Bernard to putting up admirable numbers this year, but his true potential may not be realized until Green-Ellis is let go (he’s a free agent in 2015).
In case you were interested, here’s Williams’ college and NFL highlights: