Currently, Gio is ranked #5 in our dynasty running back rankings. I would say five might be a little high but not by much. One reason is his age as Bernard will still be just 22 entering the 2014 season. Of the running backs to score more points this year (in PPR leagues), the next youngest was Eddie Lacy who is almost a year and a half older.
Production-wise, Bernard had a very good season finishing as a top-15 running back in PPR dynasty leagues. Bernard was in a time-share with incumbent running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis with Green-Ellis getting 56% of the carries as opposed to Bernard’s 44%. Despite that, Bernard gained 695 yards and a respectable 4.1 YPC. However, he did most of his damage in the passing game, where he was second among all rookies with 56 catches. He turned that into 514 yards and a 9.2 yards per average.
Going forward, things seem to be falling in to place for Bernard to be extremely productive. BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ contract is up after the 2014 season which will move Bernard into the lead role. Furthermore, with Jay Gruden being named the new head coach in Washington, Hue Jackson will take over the offensive coordinator duties in Cincinnati. In his last stint as offensive coordinator, Jackson managed to squeeze 1,157 rushing yards (5.2 YPC) out of the oft-injured Darren McFadden plus 507 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns. He should be able to do the same for Bernard.
Physically, Bernard has the build of Ray Rice (Bernard is 5′ 9″/ 208 lbs; Rice is 5′ 8″ / 212 lbs) which should alleviate any fears you may have of his body holding up. Rice had four very productive years with at least 1,500 yards from scrimmage before suffering a drop-off this year (it remains to be seen if he’ll return to form).
Overall, it’s very difficult to get a running back you can consistently rely on in dynasty football. Bernard has that potential, and should be treated, as a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2 for at least the next 3-4 years which, in running back years, is a lifetime.
But, I’m a big believer in every player has a price and running backs, of all positions in fantasy football, are the most replaceable. If you were to trade Bernard, be sure to get at least one good, young player (i.e. Keenan Allen) along with picks in your upcoming drafts.
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