Prospect: Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
Height: 5’8 3/8
Grade: 7.1 (Grading Scale)
Giovani Bernard is a quick and elusive running back. When running he displays excellent short area burst through run lanes. He displays excellent laterally ability and cuts to force missed tackles when one on one with defenders. Accelerates to top speed quickly, using “quick steps” to get going. When cutting he shows the explosion to accelerate out of his cuts to get back up to speed rapidly. Bernard is an all-purpose play-maker and is always a threat to rip off a big play. Makes big plays in the run game, as a punt returner and as a receiver out of the backfield. He gets to the line quickly and is able to find his way through the hole with speed as well. Displays good vision on film, find the hole as it opens while reading his blockers.
Bernard has a hard and determined running style despite his frame. While he won’t necessarily run a defender over he can string multiple cuts together, keep his legs driving and cut his way out of tight spaces where it looks like he would be stopped. He’s always keeping his momentum moving up-field even when making multiple cuts. As a pass catcher, Bernard is a reliable threat out of the backfield. Doesn’t possesses elite speed as a route runner, but is quick footed and displays the ability to separate from linebackers. Finds a way to get open with quickness out of his breaks. Plenty of speed and elusiveness to make the first defender and create yards after the catch. Bernard keeps his pads low to the ground and doesn’t give the defense a big target to hit or square up. Can hide behind his bigger blockers and weave in and out of traffic at the line or second level. Keeps his lower body moving at all times, even if it is to make lateral cuts, he picks them up and puts them down rapidly.
The ability to move his feet so fast actually generates more power than you would think for an undersized and slight running back. Has shown a consistent ability to make the first defender miss and break a tackle or two on a given play. In 2012, Bernard finished 2nd in the FBS in punt returner average (16.44). Skilled at making the first wave of defenders miss and accelerating up-field with relative ease. Bernard will add value to an NFL team with his ability to return punts and kicks.
Bernard’s build doesn’t project well to be an every down running at the NFL level. Only 202 pounds and under 5’9″. Will have to add at least some bulk and thickness to his frame to put up with the physicality of the game. Too much of a finesse runner at times. Worried about making cuts and big plays rather than dropping the shoulder and getting what is given to him. His top-end straight line speed is good not great. For a RB that is his size, they really should have elite speed if they are to be a special runner at the next level. Doesn’t provide much power with his running style. Won’t push the pile and doesn’t lower his shoulder to run over defenders too often. Not a very effective pass protector. Lacks the size and power to sustain his blocks and doesn’t do a great job of limiting pressure even when he puts himself in the proper position.
Suffered a torn ACL during 2010, so there are a couple durability red flags that will have to be checked out.
Giovani Bernard is an exciting play-maker from the RB position. The 2013 draft is lacking elite running backs at the top of the draft. While Bernard has some holes in his overall game he is undoubtedly one of the most talented players at the position in this yea’rs class. Bernard is extremely quick and elusive showing the ability to make multiple defenders miss on a given play. He shows a determination and effort level to churn out every yard possible on a given play. He can impact the passing game with reliable hands and special teams with explosive return ability.
Bernard caught over 40 balls last year and finished 2nd in the nation in punt return average. His field vision, ability to weave through traffic and string cuts together is what makes him so exciting. However, his lack of bulk and size is not ideal for the NFL. Will he be able to hold up as an every down runner and can he be a consistent between the tackles runner. Came on very strong in 2011 after recovering from a torn ACL. While it’s unlikely Bernard is going to go in the first round at this point, he could potentially be the second RB off the board at some point on day two of the draft.