SEE 2013 UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE!
Today it’s a more straight-forward question tee’d up, and one of only a few “A vs. B” polls planned for the 2013 docket. Potentially anyway, Giovani Bernard is to Benjarvus Green-Ellis what Shane Vereen is to Stevan Ridley. Bernard and Vereen are back-to-back in magazine rankings on average, as the 33rd and 34th ranked RBs. With the 50/50 chance (potentially), the odds of getting all polls correct so far goes from about 1 in a million to 1 in two million. Giddy up.
Well, look out for them Bengals. Now entering HC Marvin Lewis’ 11th season as the team’s head coach (with a 79-80-1 record) he has this team ready to pounce. Back in 2008, the Bengals’ offense was dead last, 32nd ranked in points scored, 32nd ranked in offensive total yards gained, but they have been steadily on the rise. The Bengals ranked 22nd in points scored in 2009 and 2010, upped that to 18th in 2011 (the rookie seasons for QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green) and got that to 12th last year. The Bengals are loaded with young talent. They added TE Jermaine Gresham in 2010, Green and Dalton in 2011, WRs Mohammad Sanu and Marvin Jones last year, and this year they went with skill position players with their first two picks, TE Tyler Eifert with the 21st overall pick and RB Giovani Bernard with the 37th pick. Bernard reminds some of a Ray Rice type clone, both in size and high-end receiving skills. Bernard left UNC after his redshirt sophomore season, collecting 92 receptions in two seasons and had 33 TDs in just 23 games. For the complete Bernard Rookie Profile click here. It would seem to be just a question of how much the rookie gets mixed in. Benjarvus Green-Ellis was steady last year banging out 278 carries as a veteran grinder, but he averaged just 3.9 YPC, although BGE did manage the first two 40+ yard runs of his NFL career last season and is no doubt a steady veteran presence.
Like perhaps how say patient C.J. Spiller dynasty owners were rewarded with a major spike in his 3rd NFL season, maybe 2013 is (finally) The Year of the Shane Vereen. The Patriots spent a 2nd round pick on Vereen in 2011 but then basically red-shirted him his entire rookie season. He didn’t even have a single carry until Week 11 and finished with just 57 rushing yards. Burn. In 2012, Vereen came into the season clear-cut second fiddle to Steven Ridley who was drafted in the same 2011 draft class but a round later. Vereen got to play some at least, collecting 62 carries for 251 yards (although again, he was an afterthought to start the season with just 2 carries for 1 yard through Week 6). It was the brief moments in the passing game that particularly showed off Vereen’s upside as he sprinkled in a few big plays and finished with 149 receiving yards on 8 receptions. For 2013, however, Vereen is now a 3-year season vet, and gone is that pesky Danny Woodhead who leaves behind 747 yards, 7 TDs and 40 receptions from last year (Woodhead even in a complement role was the 24th-best PPR fantasy back last year). Not to mention you just never know when Bill Belichick will decide to make someone a star or do something no one saw coming because he likes to flex his genius muscle, plus New England has a ton of offense to replace this season (Vereen has lined up at wide receiver some in spring practice). The Rotowire magazine is the most bullish on Vereen listing him as the 27th best RB to own, while USA Today is the least optimistic slotting him as the RB48. Despite being 200 lbs or so coming out of college, Vereen had 31 bench press reps at the 2011 Combine, 2nd only to Connecticut fullback Anthony Sherman among RBs.
UPDATE 01/04/2014: With the early injury to Shane Vereen, Giovani Bernard basically won this one by default although he may have won anyway obviously with the strong rookie season he had. About half got nailed on this one. Bernard had collected 46% of the vote to 54% for Vereen in the Speed Bump.
It was a pretty impressive rookie season for Giovani Bernard when it was all said and done as he collected 223.90 fantasy points, enough to finish as the #13 RB on the season, despite being in a time share with Berjarvus Green-Ellis (it was a 56/44 split this season in favor of BGE). Bernard was particularly effective as a receiving back and collected a super juicy 56 balls as a rookie and had a catch in every single game, including an 8-catch game, two 6-catch games and two 5-catch games. The sky’s the limit for Bernard. In FFW’s first Expert 2014 Mock Draft (to be published soon), Bernard went in the middle of the second round fyi.
It was one of the season’s Week 1 buzz kill injuries for sure, Shane Vereen came out like gangbusters with 100+ rushing yards and 7 receptions but a fractured wrist sent him to short-term IR. Vereen was instantly a PPR magnet when he came back with 33 receptions in his first four games returning to action. However, Vereen was dinged more than you’d like this year and you do have to worry a little if that’s a trend. After the wrist injury (which is flukey), a groin injury slowed Vereen down the stretch and he had just 13 total touches over the final 13 games. Vereen will be a contract season in 2014 so he’ll have plenty of incentive for a big year.