|(Bob Donnan/US Presswire)|
Giovani Bernard announced in December that he would forego the final two years of his NCAA elegibility and enter the 2013 NFL draft. Bernard is a running back that is very adaptable and versatile. ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay has Bernard graded as a second round pick and says his versatility compares to LeSean McCoy or Shane Vereen. If we know anything about the NFL, it is a copycat league and having a running back that can return kicks, run inside and catch balls out of the backfield is a necessity. The Baltimore Ravens just won a Super Bowl and they have one of the most versatile backs in the league.
Two players that Bernard compares favorably to are CJ Spiller and David Wilson, both of which were first round picks. Bernard, like Wilson and Spiller, has a skill set as a returner on special teams that will help increase his draft stock. Bernard is a better receiver out of the back field than Wilson and on par with Spiller. Bernard's size and durability will be concerns that NFL scouts, coaches and general managers will have to take into account when evaluating Bernard and weighing the concerns with his upside.
We are going to evaluate a few teams in the mid to late first round that could possibly have Bernard on their radar:
Cincinnati Bengals (21): The Bengals could use another weapon offensively to help take pressure off of Andy Dalton and AJ Green. Bernard would be a nice complimentary back to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The Bengals also have the fifth pick in the second round and I would be very surprised if Bernard would fall past that pick.
St. Louis Rams (22): Steven Jackson is a free agent and will not be in St. Louis next season. Daryl Richardson looked to be their running back of the future halfway through this season but his production fell dramatically the last six games of the season. The Rams will want to add offensive weapons around Sam Bradford and since they drafted, WR Brian Quick in the second round last year they could be looking at a running back. The Rams have the luxury of having two first round picks and can gamble on Bernard in the first round, much like the gamble Jeff Fisher took when he was the Tennessee Titans coach and selected Chris Johnson with the 24th pick in 2008.
Green Bay Packers (26): The Packers running game this season was horrible. They will look to make changes this off-season and improve the running game. Adding a player like Bernard makes a lot of sense for the Packers. Randall Cobb's emergence in the passing game this season made Aaron Rodgers express concern about having Cobb return kicks. Drafting Bernard would allow the Packers to have a solid kick returner and add a weapon out of the backfield that Rodgers could do a lot with.
Houston Texans (27): A week ago the Texans would not have even been mentioned as a possible destination for Bernard, but with questions looming about Arian Foster's heart and possibly off-season heart surgery, it has left the Texans backfield in question. The Texans have Ben Tate as a backup, but he has yet to finish an NFL season healthy.
We will continue to keep you updated on Giovani Bernard, Jonathan Cooper, Sylvester Williams, Kevin Reddick, Brennan Williams and Erik Highsmith in their draft preparation and workouts before the NFL Draft in April.