Age when drafted: 21
Hometown: Davie, FL
Collegiate Number: 26
Combine notables: 4.53 40, 1.53 10 split, 33.5” vertical, 4.12 short shuttle, 6.91 3-cone, 19 bench reps
Games Viewed: 2012 – Virginia Tech, NC State, Duke, Miami 2011 – Clemson, Missouri, Miami
Bernard is the son of Haitian immigrants and was born in Davie, Florida. His older brother is former Oregon State RB Yvenson Bernard. Played his high school football at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He was the No. 2 RB in the state of Florida and originally committed to Notre Dame. He opted to play at North Carolina later in the process.
Bernard tore his ACL during the third day of practice in 2010, as a true freshman. Redshirted his freshman year. Returned in 2011 as North Carolina’s starting tailback. Ran for 1,253 yards and 13 TD’s as redshirt freshman. Bernard entered the 2012 season as one of the top backs in the country and didn’t disappoint. Rushed for 1,228 yards and 12 TD’s. In addition he caught 47 receptions for 490 yards and 5 TD’s as a redshirt sophomore in 2012.
Short, compact build with solid musculature throughout the body. Runs with low center of gravity. Doesn’t lack for power and shows better explosion than his Combine numbers would indicate. Solid lower body strength with good balance. Tested well in agility drills which shows on tape. Lateral quickness is above-average with quick, decisive cuts. Not great long speed but enough to suggest he could take one the distance when the opportunity presents itself.
For the most part, Bernard is quick to diagnose the hole and patient enough to allow it to open. Once he sees it, Bernard wastes little time hitting it. Bernard gets ‘skinny’ through the hole and can hit it in the tiniest of creases. Patience is a virtue but can be a fault when talking about running backs. Bernard is patient but not overly patient. His decisiveness may be his biggest attribute as he transitions to the next level.
Bernard is difficult to bring down one-on-one in the open field. He shows an array of moves that make it difficult to make open field tackles on him. Loves to utilize his spin move and can alter speeds as well as any running back in the draft.
BETWEEN THE TACKLES:
Despite his smallish size, Bernard isn’t quick to bounce things to the outside. He runs behind his pads well and while he’s not overly powerful he’s always falling forward. Power isn’t Bernard’s game but his lower body and center of gravity make him a better than expected between the tackles runner.
Loved Bernard’s patience getting to the edge. He sets up his blocks really well with vision and patience on the edge. Too many times backs are too quick to the edge and the blocking isn’t set up. Bernard doesn’t have great breakaway speed and isn’t as explosive as you would expect from a back his size. He’s not the homerun hitter off the edge that will make him a spectacular back at the next level.
The team drafting Bernard is getting the best pass catcher in the draft. I like him but don’t love him as a runner. I love what he gives a team in the passing game. He catches everything thrown his way and looks like a natural pass catcher. As a blocker, he’s NFL ready. Don’t get fooled with his small frame, he isn’t afraid to step in the fray to protect his quarterback. Bernard made a living cutting linebackers on blitzers and showed little fear in taking on bigger defenders. His ability on 3rd down sets him apart for me from other backs in the class.
Medical could be a concern as Bernard experienced soreness and swelling in his surgically repaired knee.
Bernard isn’t a spectacular runner but gives the team drafting him loads of versatility. He’s an everydown back that adds value as a returner. He could wind up challenging Eddie Lacy because of his abilities out of the backfield. He’s played in a more pro-style offense in 2011 and a spread attack in 2012 under Larry Fedora. His best fit at the next level could come as a zone back with his combination of patience, vision, and decisiveness.
As a pure runner, Bernard is a third-round pick for me. But the reality is that the NFL is a passing league and we are talking about the best pass catching back in the draft. Eddie Lacy and Bernard appear to be the top two backs in the draft. My gut is that the league could be split in half on what back is atop their draft board. Bernard’s versatility should have him hearing his name called early on day two.
POSSIBLE FITS: 2nd round – Detroit, Cincinnati, Arizona, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Green Bay