Giovani Bernard’s entrance into the NFL immediately presents a quandary for fantasy owners, because it is difficult to determine how extensively he might be utilized during his rookie season. He demonstrated enough big play ability during his collegiate career to justify the belief that he can become a major contributor this year. The 5' 9" 200 pound Bernard displayed his elusiveness by rushing for over 1,220 yards in 2011, and accomplishing that feat again last season. He also garnered 92 receptions for 852 yards, and collected 31 TDs during that span. He averaged an amazing 6.2 YPC last season, and nearly generated 200 all-purpose YPG (198.1). That compelled Cincinnati to use their second pick in order to secure his services, making Bernard the 37th overall selection in the draft. Meanwhile, the results that incumbent back BenJarvus Green-Ellis delivered in 2012 ranged from reasonably impressive to underwhelming, which increases the difficulty in forecasting how the touches will be distributed between the two backs. This has been revealed in mock drafts, as 26 RBs are being selected before Bernard, and 31 runners are departing the board before Green-Ellis. All of which underscores the uncertainty regarding this entire situation.
The Green-Ellis Conundrum
The Bengals ranked 18th in rushing last season, averaging 109 YPG. They also finished 18th with 11 TDs on the ground, although four of those were generated by Andy Dalton. While those results were respectable, they were hardly inspiring. That assessment could aptly describe Green-Ellis, who finished his first year as a Bengal by leading the team in every major rushing category. He generated nearly 1,100 yards (1,094) which was the highest output of his five-year career. Plus, it tied him for the 12th best yardage total among all backs. However, he ran the ball 278 times, which was the NFL’s eighth highest total. That makes his output less impressive, and it resulted in a 3.9 YPC, which speaks volumes regarding his lack of explosiveness. That should hardly be labeled as a surprise, given his career average of 4.0. He also led the team with six TDs last season, although that represented exactly half of the 12 that he averaged in 2010-2011 as a Patriot. Also, BJGE was essentially a non-factor as a receiver, as Dalton targeted him just 29 times. Green-Ellis collected 22 of those passes for just 104 yards, and did not penetrate the end zone. Plus, his longest reception generated just 13 yards.
BJGE is a known commodity at the NFL level, as his strengths and weaknesses have been consistently on display. He can gain yardage when an opening exists, but is not an elusive runner who can generate anything of significance strictly when reliant upon his own abilities. And there certainly is no electricity being emitted from the RB position when he is in the lineup. But it is important to remember that even though Green-Ellis will not dazzle us by breaking ankles of potential tacklers, he has accomplished enough to merit an ongoing role within the offense. However, that is also true of Bernard. Since he is a shifty runner, and has the potential to break long gains. As a result, Cincinnati's will concoct a mixture of both Bernard and Green-Ellis within their strategic approach.
Where To Draft Him
The door has been placed ajar for Bernard, but exactly how far is unclear. His performances during training camp and the preseason will have great bearing on his role once the regular season commences. He must prove that he can adeptly handle all aspects of the game as it pertains to RBs, before he can capture the largest share of touches. It is conceivable that his workload will increase as the year progresses, but that is far from a certainty. He is somewhat undersized, and his history of injuries while at North Carolina raises legitimate questions concerning his durability. Particularly his surgically repaired knee that sidelined him throughout the 2010 season. Still, he can provide the Bengals with a level of explosiveness that is lacking when Green-Ellis is running the ball. Because the veteran is not a candidate to break large gains, or to cause opposing defenders to miss in the open field. Plus, his prowess as a receiver is not close to Bernard's, as the rookie can provide the Bengals with a dynamic threat collecting throws from Dalton. All of which could enable him to garner the majority of snaps before the conclusion of the year. Although it is also highly possible that the tandem will utilized in a 50/50 split, or a time share that employs both backs just enough to cause great frustration for owners. Bernard should inherit an expanded role in 2014 and is an outstanding option in dynasty leagues. Otherwise, he should be targeted in Round 6, while his competition with BJGE is monitored throughout training camp and the preseason.