Here’s the problem with making fantasy football predictions in late April and early May: it’s damn impossible.
Sure, prognosticating is always difficult, and it can make many an intelligent man look rather clown-ish. That’s the game, bruh.
But trying to make educated predictions on the outcome of future events many months in advance can be an especially facepalm-y task, because following the draft and free agency, doing that also involves guessing how the jostling of depth charts will end.
All this is my way of admitting that here in May, I may be ahead of the game with my first misstep. Transparency!
Last week while listing and examining the fantasy outlooks of the top 2013 rookie running backs, I essentially wrote that Giovani Bernard — the Bengals’ 37th overall pick who was the first running back off the board early in the second round — will at worst be on the high end of a time share with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Sure, The Law Firm would still steal short-yardage carries and therefore lower Bernard’s value in that scenario, but the rook would remain a valuable flex option, especially if his carries increase as the year progresses.
Much of my formula for Bernard’s quick ascension was based on some rather simple but important and telling numbers. Namely, these ones:
- Green-Ellis averaged 3.9 yards per carry last year, which puts him firmly and sadly in Vick Ballard and Bilal Powell territory. That, friends, is plodding defined
- Bernard averaged 6.7 yards per carry during his final season at North Carolina. Yes, those yards came against ACC defenses. But regardless of the level of competition, that difference in burst is damn steep.
- Bernard’s pass-catching ability is also a significant factor. Throughout his two seasons as a Tar Hell he accumulated 852 yards through the air.
Those digits may eventually lead to Bernard inheriting that higher perch in a time share, and all will be right with the universe. For now, though, Bernard’s early value has taken a bit of a gut shot…
— Joe Reedy (@joereedy) May 5, 2013
That’s Joe Reedy, who gets paid to cover the Bengals and know things about the Bengals. He notes a possibility that was always, well, possible, but that doesn’t make it any less sucky right about now.
Bernard has more upside and seemingly more top-end burst, hence his success in the passing game. But if the pounding Green-Ellis instead of the cloud of dust Green-Ellis surfaces throughout the summer and early next season, there’s hope he can produce serviceable numbers, and retain value as a low-end RB2.
Consider these stretches during the 2012 season which tell us the tale of Green-Ellis and his cycle of hope and depression:
- Between weeks 3 and 10: an average of 53 yards per game with one touchdown, on 3.1 yards per carry.
- Between weeks 11 and 16: an average of 73.1 yards per game with three touchdowns, on 3.7 yards per carry.
While the 0.6 jump in YPC is notable and nice, both of those numbers are still horrendous. But in fantasy gaming and the week-to-week victories demanded of us, you care little about that. Yards are your only salvation, and if it’s Green-Ellis’ game to pound away while recording those yards, so be it. That’s why his success while do so later in the year and the jump of 20 yards per game is encouraging. Add a touchdown in with a 73-yard game, and suddenly your flex play has 13 fake points.
See what I did there? I manufactured some good feelings about one of the league’s worst running backs last year this side of Shonn Greene. The reality is that while those like myself who believe Bernard is the better back will likely be right eventually when he emerges, early on the Bengals’ backfield could be a frustrating fantasy vacuum.
And thus we hand the title of the rookie RB with the best fantasy potential back to Montee Ball, with Le’Veon Bell close behind.