gio1 Rookie Focus: Giovani Bernard

By Luke Grilli (@LGrilli88)

The Bengals huh?
Yes, the Cincinnati Bengals are the team that Giovani Bernard (Gio from here on out ) will begin his NFL career with after being taken in 37th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Gio was a hot commodity in Dynasty Fantasy Football circles after an impressive 2011 and 2012 campaign with the UNC Tarheels. After rehabbing from a 2010 ACL tear, Bernard posted back to back 1,600+ yards from scrimmage seasons and displayed superior explosiveness and pass catching abilities.

Fantasy owners were drooling at the idea of Gio heading to an RB needy team and becoming their fantasy team’s instant RB2. Unfortunately for those owners, Gio ended up with the Bengals, and in the short term, will be relegated to time share duty with incumbent starter Benjarvus Green-Ellis. Not all is lost though with Gio though. We will take a look at how the talented rookie will make an impact on both the gridiron and your fantasy football team in 2013 and beyond.

2013 Outlook
As mentioned above, Benjarvus Green-Ellis is the starting RB in Cincinnati. On downs 1 and 2 and most goal line opportunities, The Lawfirm will be the guy taking the hand offs from Andy Dalton. Passing downs, 3rd downs and  hurry up situations could be where Gio excels in 2012.  We can probably expect for Gio to be a glorified change of pace back in 2012. BJGE has been a reliable running back in the sense that he does not cough up the ball or miss time due to injuries. After another 1,000+ yard season in 2012, I don’t see any reason why the Bengals would rush Gio into lead back duty in 2013.
2013 Projected Stats: 75 carries, 350 yards, 2 TDs 35 catches, 300 yards 1 TD.

2014 and Beyond Outlook
I expect 2014 to be the year that Gio takes the lead back role in Cinci. 2014 is a contract year for BJGE and he will be turning 29 before the season starts. Couple that with how he already displays a less than dynamic set of skills (AKA runs 4 yards and falls down and is invisible in the pass game), and I think the Bengals will be done with The Law Firm as their go-to-guy. I expect Gio to win the role as the RB1 in Cinci and serve as an every down back, specializing in being Andy Dalton’s check down option in what is shaping up to be an uptempo offense in Cincinnati.
2014 Projected stats: 250 carries, 1200 yards 8 TDs, 55 catches 525 yards 3 TDs

So, where should you take Gio in your rookie draft? If you are looking for a “win now” solution, Montee Ball, Le’Veon Bell and  Tavon Austin are all good options, as they should make a significant impact on their respective teams from Day 1. However, if you are picking early in the first round (where Gio is sure to go), you are probably planning for the future anyways. It will depend on those picking at the top of your draft, but I think that Austin, Ball, Bell and Gio will round out your Top 4 in any order. Feel confident in taking Gio anywhere in that area, knowing you may have to wait until year 2 for significant production.

I liken Gio’s situation to David Wilson’s. Owners were conflicted because during their rookie draft, they were drafting Wilson right around 1.05 and 1.06 based on potential and not the current depth chart. Those owners are now hoping the gamble will pay off in 2013, since Wilson has the opportunity for the bulk of the carries with Ahmad Bradshaw leaving town. As you can see, I expect the same for Gio and his owners in 2014.

Follow me on Twitter (@LGrilli88) and be sure to hit up the comment section.