At RotoViz, our motto is “seeing is believing.” Our team leverages various internal apps and external resources to make that motto come to fruition. The RB Countdown series will provide you fantasy analysis and outlooks on the top-50 running backs in PPR formats to empower you to make educated decisions on draft day.
Did you know that running back Giovani Bernard held Joe Mixon to just nine third-down touches? Both had eerily similar production last season as a receiver out of the backfield.
Bernard only averaged around five touches per game until a concussion sidelined Mixon in December. Bernard averaged 19.0 touches per game over the last five games of the season.
Bernard played 50.3 percent of the Bengals offensive snaps, but was not utilized as heavily as Mixon. He touched the football or was targeted on only 34 percent of the Bengals offensive snaps. Mixon, on the other hand, only played 39.8 percent, but was utilized on 55.1 percent. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three things you should know about Bernard heading into fantasy drafts.
Bernard enters the season as the favorite to operate as the Bengals change-of-pace option behind Mixon. He does face competition heading into training camp in the form of Mark Walton. The Bengals selected him in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Walton was ranked ninth in the RotoViz Scouting index
BERNARD IS AN AFTERTHOUGHT AT HIS CURRENT ADP
Bernard’s average draft position makes him a particularly attractive late in best ball drafts. As the primary pass-catching back in Cincinnati, Bernard’s ADP in the double-digit rounds could make him a good value. But as we’ll see below, there are other concerns to be aware of.
THE BENGALS RUNNING GAME MUST IMPROVE
The Bengals ranked 31st in the NFL last season in rushing yards per game and had negative rushing fantasy points over expectation. The team’s offensive line was a disaster for most of the season when analyzing their adjusted line and open field yards. The Bengals additions of Billy Price, Rod Taylor, and Cordy Glenn can help the OL correct the issues from last season. New offensive line coach Frank Pollack, formerly of the Cowboys, will help improve the Bengals running scheme and correct the issues from last season. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has completely redesigned the team’s entire offense after it finished last in the NFL for the first time in franchise history. He has mentioned leaning more on the run and building the passing game on a high number of short, quick passes. This could open up the Bengals offense in 2018. Mixon and Bernard have the potential to be one of the top backfields in the NFL this season.
COMPETITION FOR TOUCHES
Since joining the Bengals in 2013, Bernard has never been used a workhorse, and the front office has drafted three other RBs high in the NFL Draft. Mixon continues to be the biggest threat to Bernard’s fantasy outlook. He led the Bengals in carries, total touches, and opportunities inside both the red-zone and inside the opponent’s 10-yard line last season. Did you know that Mixon averaged over four yards per carry in five of the final six games in 2017? Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 16th best RB last season even with the Bengals multiple offensive woes. All signs suggest that the Bengals plan on featuring Mixon in 2018.
Been hearing a lot inside PBS about Joe Mixon taking a giant step forward.— Jeremy Rauch (@FOX19Jeremy) June 13, 2018
Bill Lazor was really good on him today and challenging Mixon this offseason to be a "complete back." @fox19 #Bengals pic.twitter.com/SRDjeL3dvL
The structure of Bernard’s contract extension makes him a cut candidate heading into the 2019 season. The dead money for the Bengals would be a reasonable $750,000 if he’s cut before June 1, 2019. The Bengals selection of Walton in the NFL Draft suggests they are preparing for life without Bernard. Walton is a 21-year-old rookie who profiles as a very similar player to Bernard, and could step into a role as soon as his rookie year. It’s possible that Bernard will begin to face a touch squeeze not long after the season begins.
Bernard is being drafted as the RB46 in MFL10s over the past month, which is fair value. The downside risks are significant, but with injuries to other backs on the Bengals’ roster, Bernard could be in line for an increased workload. Bernard has always had a defined role on the team, but there are signs that this role could be in jeopardy in 2018. We have seen Bernard’s upside when given a significant number of touches, and although his path to touches may be cloudy in 2018, if he is able to get more opportunity than expected, he is more than capable of returning value at his current ADP.
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