I owned Giovani Bernard in 2013 and, boy was he fun to watch. It was equally frustrating to watch the Law Firm BenJarvus Green-Ellis get so many touches from the backfield on a per game basis as well. Much of the fantasy football community were expecting the Bengals to give the reins to Bernard at some point during the season, but it just never really happened. Hey, it worked out pretty well for the Bengals and real-life football, but no so much for fantasy football.
What have we heard for the off-season news on Gio Bernard?
- New Bengals Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson said, “In order to win, we have to run the ball.”
- The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Joe Reedy expects Giovani Bernard to handle a larger workload under new OC Hue Jackson.
- Giovani Bernard expects new Bengals OC Hue Jackson to install the “craziest playbook ever.” Does that sound like a job for the plodding Green-Ellis? I don’t think so.
- Bengals.com’s Geoff Hobson believes Giovani Bernard will “no doubt border on 300 touches” in 2014.
So, what to expect of Gio Bernard for the 2014 fantasy football season?
Let’s start with what we do know. BJGE is a slow, plodding (though effective), up the middle runner. Everyone knows where he’s going. It’s just that to this point in his career, when a play is called for him he’s been pretty damn good at knocking guys around enough to get a hard-earned four yards out of it. It worked great for the Patriots when they have Tom Brady to move the ball down the field and make plays, but Andy Dalton at the helms is a significant downgrade in play-making ability.
Of the Bengals games I was able to watch last year, when they wanted to move the ball down the field quickly, they turned to Giovani Bernard. Marching down the field slowly and methodically, punching out three to five yards at a time can only get you so far in the NFL. At some point, you need to break a big play. Green-Ellis is just not the guy that is going to offer that potential.
Staying on the Law Firm, well, he’s owed a lot of money relative to his current talent and output. He’s owed $2.5 million in 2014, to be exact. That makes him a strong candidate to be let go by Cincinnati to clear some of that all-important cap room. Obviously, if that happens Bernard’s value will skyrocket.
If we believe the off-season news on Bernard, let’s just say the roles reverse from last year and Bernard receives the bulk of the backfield carries in 2014. Let’s give him the number BJGE got, at 220. That’s really only an extra 3 rushing attempts per game on the season. With his average of about 4 yards per carry, that would put him at about 880 rushing yards. He also pulled in 56 receptions in 2013, for over 500 yards. That number is harder to predict a bump in, with the news that the Bengals may run the ball more, but it doesn’t change the fact that Bernard has dynamic play-making ability when catching the ball out of the backfield. Just being ultra-conservative and giving him 400 yards receiving and 800 yards rushing with the possibility that the Law Firm is out of business at the goal line…whew, watch out.
Giovani Bernard is a prime dynasty hold at running back. I’d take him every time over Packers sophomore to-be Eddie Lacy. The future is looking bright for this kid and if you’ve got a hold on him, so is your fantasy team.
So where should you draft Giovani Bernard in 2014?
It is still a little early to say definitively, but right now I’d feel comfortable taking him near the end of the second round in most fantasy football re-drafts. Bernard was already a solid RB2 to own last year and with an increase in usage and effectiveness seemingly a lock, he can only get better. Running back is going to be a mess to decipher after the top tier and I think Bernard will look like one of the safer bets with good upside and limited downside compared to the Arian Fosters, Maurice Jones-Drews and Ray Rices of the world.