13

March

2013 NFL Draft Preview: Ranking Packers Running Back Prospects

North Carolina RB Gio Bernard

North Carolina RB Gio Bernard

Running back can be a tough position to evaluate headed into the NFL Draft.

Take last year for example. Trent Richardson was considered a “can’t-miss” guy at the top of the draft, but Alfred Morris, the 173rd overall pick, had the best season of all rookie running backs last year.

This year’s draft doesn’t have a clear-cut top back. There isn’t a Richardson or an Adrian Peterson in this year’s draft class, but there are a handful of intriguing prospects that could step in and start for a team from day one.

Nearly all draft rankings have the same two guys at the top: Alabama’s Eddie Lacy and North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard. Most have Lacy firmly entrenched as a first-round pick with Bernard projected to go in round two.

Lacy and Bernard are completely different backs. While Lacy is a physical, punishing runner, Bernard is a versatile player capable of doing damage in the passing game as well as between the tackles. In today’s pass-happy NFL, I prefer Bernard as a prospect slightly ahead of Lacy.

But beyond the top two guys, this year’s crop of running backs has some quality depth. Oklahoma State’s Joseph Randle, Clemson’s Andre Ellington, UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball all have a chance to be selected on Day 2.

Perhaps the most interesting running back in this year’s class is Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina. Lattimore suffered the most gruesome knee injuries I’ve ever seen last season, and concerns over his long-term health will likely cause him to drop to the third round.

It would be an upset if the Packers don’t add a running back at some point this offseason, whether it’s a veteran via free agency or a young guy through the draft.

1. Gio Bernard, North Carolina (5-8, 202)

  • Draft stock: Late 1st/Early 2nd
  • 40 time: 4.53, 225-pound bench: 19 reps, 10-yard split: 1.53
  • Two-year starter, declared after his RS Sophomore season.
  • The second round is likely where Bernard will be selected, but I really believe he’s the best running back in this class. On top of being a talented runner, he’s a dangerous return man and receiver. I see Bernard as Ray Rice 2.0, and I really think he’d be a natural fit in the Packers’ offense.
24

February

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Gio Bernard, RB North Carolina

North Carolina RB Giovani Bernard

North Carolina RB Giovani Bernard

Green Bay Packers NFL Draft prospect profile: RB Giovani Bernard

Player Information:

Giovani Bernard, RB North Carolina
5-10, 205 pounds
Hometown: Davie, FL

STATS:

NFL Combine:

N/A.

News and Notes:

Bernard enters the NFL as a redshirt sophomore … Missed his freshman season with a torn ACL before becoming the Tar Heels’ starting running back for two seasons … Can do everything from the position: catches the ball well out of the backfield and hits the hole quickly … 45 receptions as freshman, 47 catches as a sophomore … Started over Wisconsin RB James White at St. Thomas Aquinas HS in Florida … 2012 First-Team All-ACC (ACSMA, Coaches, Phil Steele) … 2012 ACC Player of the Year (CBSsports.com) … 2012 Third-Team All-America (Associated Press, Phil Steele) … 2011 First-Team All-ACC (ACSMA) … 2011 First-Team Freshman All-America

 What they’re saying about him:

  • CBSSports.com: “Bernard is compactly built with good lower body drive, running decisive and hard with some power. He has quick feet and loose hips to make smooth lateral cuts and make open field moves with the acceleration to force poor angles by defenders.”
  • DraftInsider.net: “Nifty, elusive, double cut runner that consistently creates his own yardage.” (Only RB that warrants a 1st-round grade.)
  • Video:

Video Analysis:

  • Natural runner with great vision.
  • Impressive as a receiver out of the backfield. Doesn’t only catch screen passes; runs a number of pass patterns and catches the ball with his hands.
  • Doesn’t have breakaway speed, but has enough to get to the second level.
  • Perhaps the nation’s best punt returner this past season; returned 16 punts for 263 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Ball security not much of a concern; lost two fumbles as a redshirt freshman but didn’t lose a fumble during the 2012 season.
  • For only playing two years of college football, Bernard is a polished runner with a complete skill set for a running back.
  • I really like the idea of Bernard in the Packers offense. North Carolina ran a lot out of the shotgun, asking Bernard to pick up the blitz as well as catch passes out of the backfield. The Packers haven’t had a guy that could run, catch and pick up the blitz in some time. To me, Bernard is a natural fit for what the Packers like to do offensively.