In continuation with our series of individual prospect evaluations here at Turn On The Jets, we turn our attention today toward UNC Running Back Giovani Bernard. Be sure to stay with our series of scouting reports as they are intended to provide an in-depth breakdown of individual prospects in this year’s draft class highlighting players’ overall strengths, weaknesses, potential upside, red flags, and what their best schematic fit will be at the next level.
Prospect: Giovani Bernard
Position: Running Back
College: University of North Carolina
Measurables: 5’8″ 202 lbs, 28″ Arm Length, 9 3/8″ Hands
UNC running back Giovani Bernard has been considered one of the top-ranked running backs in college football dating back to before the 2012 season. And as Draft Day approaches, his stock doesn’t appear to be dropping–even with a few lingering concerns.
After Bernard’s ultra-successful 2011 campaign in Butch Davis’ pro-style offense, newly hired Head Coach Larry Fedora implemented a fast paced, shotgun heavy scheme. The change in offensive philosophy didn’t affect Bernard, though, as he racked up 1228 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground, while also displaying his ability as a receiver and in pass protection.
For Bernard, the ability to transition seamlessly into a new offense and continue producing at an elite level will certainly interest NFL head coaches looking for a feature running back in the draft. But he doesn’t come without concerns, as an torn ACL early in 2010 forced him to redshirt, and additional complaints of knee pain early in 2012 forced him out of UNC’s first two games.
Bernard was a main cog of the UNC offensive attack in 2012, thriving both as a runner and receiver; used in the screen game, running draws, and in pass protection. The hard runner has a solid base and consistently falls forward in search of extra yards, and also protects the ball with both hands in an effort to limit laying it on the ground.
As a receiver, Bernard’s sure-handedness and quick first move allows him to regularly evade the initial tackler and gain extra yards. In 2012, Bernard finished with career highs across the board as a receiver, including a 10.8 yard per catch average and five touchdowns.
His patience behind his blockers is one of the most noticeable traits to jump out on film, as Bernard consistently waits for the play to develop before breaking through the opening. He also shows an impressive ability to move laterally and cut back, capable of creating his own path when necessary. His balance and vision can’t be overlooked either, as he puts himself in good position to maximize his touches, regularly evading defenders, staying low to the ground and showing impressive lower body drive. While he doesn’t use it very often, Bernard also has an impressive spin move, but relies more on his quick cut ability and short stiff arm to avoid would-be tacklers.
Bernard is also a capable punt returner, showing off the same explosiveness and burst on special teams that he does out of the backfield. In 2012, Bernard returned two punts for touchdowns, including this game-winning return against NC State.
The biggest concern with Bernard is his durability. After tearing his ACL in 2010, Bernard returned the following year without missing a beat–finishing with over 1200 yards on the ground. Complaints of knee pain early in the 2012 season caused him to miss the Tar Heels’ first two games, while other injuries limited his action throughout the year.
Aside from the injuries, Bernard has some concerns regarding his top end speed, leading some to believe that his big play ability at UNC may not exactly translate to the NFL. He also tends to rely on his cut block in pass protection rather than staying up and facing his man, which may be more a result of his size than anything else.
Even with the injury concerns, Bernard will likely be one of the first two running backs taken in the 2013 NFL Draft as he is one of very few legitimate three-down backs available for the taking. His versatility as a receiver is monumental in the pass happy NFL, while his contributions on special teams will also help his stock.
It’s not crazy to assume that his versatility will especially pique the interest of some of the more evolved offensive minds in the NFL.
If he does slide out of Round 1, it’s highly doubtful that Bernard will stay on the board very long in Round 2.