It is always hard to gauge a running back’s success at the professional level. A Heisman winner could be a complete bust, while an undrafted rookie like Arian Foster can make the Pro Bowl. That’s the beauty of this game—only a select few can withstand the speed and intensity the NFL has to offer.
At this year’s combine, notable names like Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, Alabama’s Eddie Lacy and Clemson’s Andre Ellington headline this group of running backs, but one player will stand out above all of them: Giovani Bernard.
The talented back from Florida brought his talents to the University of North Carolina and has shined ever since. Weighing in at 205 pounds, the 5’10” running back is entering the draft after two great seasons for the Tar Heels.
In his first season, Bernard rushed for 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns on 5.2 yards per carry. He followed that up the next year with an average of 6.7 yards per carry, totaling 1,228 yards and 12 scores.
Bernard’s running ability is comprised of sharp lateral cuts and short strides. He always seems to succeed at fighting for an extra yard or two by taking one last dive forward before he’s wrestled to the ground. He does this as good as, if not better than, any other back in this class.
However, there is an area of concern with his knee. In 2010, Bernard suffered an ACL injury early in the season and was redshirted for the rest of the year. Nevertheless, he has come back strong with no clear signs of weakness or tenderness, and he will continue to do so in the combine.
Bernard probably won’t post a better 40-yard dash time than Ellington or Lacy, but that’s not the most important quality for an NFL running back. The combine will show off his incredible strength and lateral quickness to all the general managers looking for the next great back.
His explosive ability and great field vision make him an intriguing prospect. He may be able to start right away in the NFL or at least complement another player in the running game. Even if this doesn’t happen in his first year, he can still be a valuable asset in the return game.
Since he was on a below-average North Carolina squad, Bernard hovered below the radar this season, but after his performance at the combine, he will become the talk of the league in the upcoming draft.