PROFILE: Giovani BernardPosition: Running Back
School Bio: North Carolina
By Ryan Fox
Our first draft prospect under review is University of North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard. He may not be the biggest, strongest or fastest running back entering the NFL draft, but he arguably is the most complete.
The 5-foot-8, 205-pound Bernard was third in the nation averaging 198.1 all-purpose yards per game (combined rushing, receiving, punt returns). Even after missing two games this season, Bernard managed to pile up 1,981 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns on the season.
Rushing: Bernard is a dynamic runner who is elusive and shifty with outstanding playmaking ability. He’s outstanding in the open-field and possesses the uncanny ability to change direction at full speed. Bernard usually is on the winning end of one-on-one matchups in space. This unique ability will serve him well in zone blocking schemes.
Bernard is a stocky, strong inside runner with good instincts. He competes hard and doesn’t shy away from contact. He showcases a series of moves (lateral jump cut, spin move, stiff-arm) to make defenders miss. The running back relies on explosion, quick feet, short area burst and acceleration to make big plays. He also shows patience and good peripheral vision in finding cutback lanes. He is decisive hitting the hole and demonstrates powerful leg drive.
Versatility: Bernard is a dual-threat out of the backfield, both rushing and receiving. He’s an outstanding outlet receiver who is deadly on screen plays and swing routes. Bernard is a legitimate receiving threat, demonstrating the ability to flank out wide or in the slot. He has good hands with natural pass-catching ability. Bernard is an effective blocker versus the blitz. He’s physical with a low center of gravity and not afraid to come up and pop a linebacker.
Bernard also shows great value on special teams as an explosive return-man. He was named ACC first-team specialist and chosen as an All-ACC first-teamer on 45 ballots.
Blemishes: Bernard enters the draft as a third-year sophomore, so durability is somewhat of a concern. He tore his ACL on the third day of fall practice and redshirted in 2010. He missed two games this past season with a knee injury. Bernard doesn’t have blazing speed but plays fast.
Big C’s inside report
During an interview with North Carolina offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, he discussed Bernard’s football IQ, saying it’s higher than most. Anderson said Bernard knows the game well and doesn’t require a lot of instructions. He did a lot of communicating with the O-line and center regarding protections. He was comfortable picking up subtle changes in defensive alignments and is a quick study.
Anderson acknowledged Bernard’s downside may be size because he doesn’t meet NFL standards for the position. Anderson went on to say that Bernard is built strong, can take a punch, deliver a punch, and did a tremendous job in the offseason improving on strength. Bernard has the skills to be in a single or two-back system. His speed is deceptive and he can outrun the angles. He would be a nice complement runner to any backfield.
Anderson added that Bernard is a great teammate and guys are going to want to have him in the locker room.
As far as the knee injury, Anderson stated there is no reason for concern. The injury couldn’t be avoided and the player returned to the field as soon as he could. He said Bernard is tough and played with some pain. He described the knee currently as being healthy.
"Giovani is going to make somebody a solid quality back," Anderson said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He’s an even better person than he is player."
Target audience: Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, San Diego Chargers, New York Jets.
Big C’s draft projection: Borderline first-rounder, second round pick.