For the first time in 50 years, there were no running backs drafted in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. The first ball-carrier finally went of the board at the No. 37 overall pick, where the Cincinnati Bengals drafted North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard to serve as a complementary speed back to BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Bernard is arguably the most dynamic runner among the running backs in the 2013 NFL draft class. He is an agile back who can make defenders miss with his smooth cuts in the open field.
He does not have tremendous speed (4.53 combine 40), but he projects as a good complementary/third-down back in the NFL. While he does not have much power as a between-the-tackles runner, he is a very good receiver out of the backfield, an adequate pass-protector and also can contribute to an NFL team as a kickoff/punt returner.
Bernard is unlikely to be a star all on his own, but could be a very valuable piece in a running back rotation, especially in Cincinnati where he should feature prominently.
Bernard should get a good number of touches immediately in the Bengals' backfield as a complementary back to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and will be able to put up numbers not only as a runner out of the backfield, but also by getting catches and potentially returning kickoffs and punts.
Expect Bernard to get somewhere around 15 total touches per game, and he could easily eclipse the 1,000-yard mark as a rookie between his rushing and receiving totals. If he plays prominently in the Bengals' offense and is also used at least occasionally as a returner, he could end up being a steal in fantasy football drafts in 2013.
The Bengals needed to add a second running back who can complement Green-Ellis, and that is what they will get in Bernard. While Green-Ellis will likely remain the team's feature back, he is a powerful, straight-ahead between-the-tackles runner who offers little as a receiver.
Bernard will come into the lineup for Green-Ellis in passing or long-yardage situations, where he can add another receiver out of the backfield while he also has much more big-play ability than Green-Ellis.
Bernard would have been better value at the Bengals' second Round 2 pick (No. 53 overall), but among running backs in the 2013 draft class, he is the best fit for what the Bengals needed to complement Green-Ellis.
While the Bengals would have gotten better value by drafting a linebacker in Arthur Brown, Bernard should be able to play an immediate and beneficial role on the Bengals' offense.