Giovani Bernard just may have run himself into your fantasy lineup with his performance on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Bengals rookie running back had 38 yards and a touchdown on the ground and 27 yards and a touchdown receiving. It was the perfect example of what kind of extra dimension Bernard brings to Cincinnati.
It was also a historic performance against the Steelers (h/t ESPN Stats and Info).
#Bengals Giovani Bernard is 3rd rookie with multiple offensive TD against the Steelers on Monday Night Football (Fred Taylor/Earl Campbell)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 17, 2013
He's the kind of running back the team has missed for quite a while. While defenses are focusing on AJ Green, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, Bernard can fit right into the zones and use his speed to make the most of what little spaces there are.
With his skill set, Bernard is also a fantasy football owner's dream. However, he looked like a flex option at best coming into the game. In short, there were too many road blocks in his way to think that he would get too many chances to put up good fantasy numbers.
However, the former North Carolina standout didn't need a lot of touches to make a major impact on the game. There were just the eight carries and one reception, which went for a touchdown. That's not a lot of time on the field, and yet Bernard will likely have put up 20 or more points in most fantasy leagues.
He's got the kind of speed to break a big play any time he's got his hands on the football. ESPN thought it was Usain Bolt who scampered to the end zone on Bernard's 27-yard touchdown reception.
Gio Bernard. Giving us his best Usain Bolt impersonation.— ESPN (@espn) September 17, 2013
You can't blame them too much. Look at how quickly he exploded after catching the pass.
It's important to keep this performance in perspective. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is still going to get the lion's share of carries. He's a much better inside runner, which is what Cincinnati will need in the AFC North. Bernard is still a bit of a liability when it comes to pass protection, so good a receiver as he is, Green-Ellis is the better option there.
Marvin Lewis is going to continue opting for the veteran for the majority of the Bengals' offensive sets. Bernard is more a luxury player who Cincinnati are bedding into the team this season with a view for the long term.
In addition, Bernard's performance against Pittsburgh shouldn't come as a surprise. Everybody knew he was a good foil for Green-Ellis—quick, more agile and a better pass-catcher. He was likely to have a great game here and there.
The problem will be whether or not he can consistently be a strong fantasy option. You don't want to automatically put Bernard in your starting lineup, only to have him flop in most weeks. The variance is too high to consider him anything more than still a flex option.
If the Bengals have a favorable matchup, such as in Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers, Bernard could be due for another stellar showing. More times than not, though, he's likely to fall back closer to his Week 1 numbers, where he had 22 yards rushing and eight yards receiving.
Until Bernard is the unquestioned starting running back in Cincinnati, he shouldn't be starting for your fantasy team, either.