Rookie Review: Giovani Bernard
November, 4, 2013
By Kevin Weidl | ESPN Insider
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesGiovani Bernard, so far, has shown why he was the first running back taken in the 2013 draft.It’s not every day that an NFL running back reverses fields and turns the corner for a touchdown like Cincinnati Bengals RB Giovani Bernard was able to do on a 35-yard touchdown run Thursday against the Miami Dolphins. The 5-foot-8, 202-pound rookie, who was the first running back drafted in the 2013 draft with the 37th overall pick in the second round, has brought strong production all season. In fact, he leads all rookie running backs in total yards (628), receiving yards (267), total touchdowns (six) and rushing touchdowns (four), and he is second behind Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy in rushing yards (361).
After I watched three coaches' copy tapes of Bernard, it’s not hard to see why he’s been so effective early on for the Bengals. Bernard has displayed above-average feet and lateral agility to make defenders miss in a confined area, and he flashes noticeable acceleration out of cuts. Although he lacks ideal power in his lower half, Bernard has excellent balance, which has allowed him to stay on his feet after contact. Bernard also is showing strong instincts and vision. He is setting up and using his blocks and has a strong feel for the cutback lanes.
Bernard displayed some of these strengths coming out of North Carolina. However, his biggest asset entering the 2013 draft was his versatility in the passing game, which has translated well to start his career. Bernard is a polished route-runner who shows above-average quickness out of cuts, shows natural hands and makes a quick transition up the field after the catch. Despite his lack of ideal size, Bernard has shown adequate awareness and technique with his sets in pass protection.