Oct 27, 2012; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels running back Giovani Bernard (26) on the sidelines in the first half at Kenan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati Bengals Rookie running back Giovani Bernard is already being projected as one of the top rookie performers in this upcoming season.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. The RB position is typically the easiest position to transition from the college level to the NFL, and Bernard’s dynamic skill–set should allow him to have a very productive year. He’ll likely start his career as a change of pace back and big play option for the Bengals behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis. However, if Bernard is able to translate his level of production in college to the NFL, not only will he quickly surpass ellis as the Bengals’ primary back, but he could also find himself among the league’s top backs.
ESPN did a projection of who they believe will be the top RBs in 2016, and coming in at #6 was none other than Bernard:
"I see a lot of similarities to McCoy. He probably will not see a massive workload as a rookie, but I don’t think it will be long before he passes BenJarvus Green-Ellis as Cincinnati’s primary back. Bernard is very elusive and explosive, with great upside as a receiver. Expect Andy Dalton to learn to love dumping the ball off to Bernard."
It’s also worth noting Bernard is only 21-years-old and has just two years of college experience under his belt, so he doesn’t enter the NFL with same level of “wear-and-tear” past busts like Chris Perry and Kenny Irons entered the league with. While it’s fun to look at his potential impact in the future, Bernard’s greatest contributions in 2013 will come as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Bernard finished his 2012 college football season with 47 receptions for 490 yards (10.4 ypc) and totaled five touchdowns. He’ll be a great change-of-pace back and depending on how well he adjusts to pass-blocking in the NFL, he may become the Bengals’ primary 3rd-down back.