Free agency has died down as the 2021 NFL Draft approaches, but several quality veterans are still on the market. And another veteran became available on Wednesday when the Bengals released running back Giovani Bernard.
Should the Jaguars look to add the 5'9", 205-pound back to their stable?
In his prime, Bernard was one of the best third-down backs in football. But as he nears the age of 30, his production has fallen off in recent years. He hasn't eclipsed four yards per carry as a runner since 2017. While the Bengals haven't boasted great offensive line groups — to say the least — over the last few years, it's still a concern, especially when you look at the 2020 season. Bernard averaged just 3.2 yards per carry on 124 attempts. He's known as more of a receiving back, but he's declined in that area as well, having dropped four passes on 58 targets in 2020. Bernard still excels in pass protection, which adds some value.
The bottom line is Gio isn't what he once was as a runner or receiver. He's a cheap veteran option that has a marvelous mustache. When it comes to keeping Trevor Lawrence clean on third downs, Bernard could certainly help in that area. Because of his pass blocking chops, I wouldn't blame the Jaguars for taking a flyer on the veteran scat back. I'd actually applaud the move. But there are more explosive and intriguing options in the draft, granted they might not come in and provide the same level of protection for Lawrence in year one. I'd recommend adding Gio for pass protection and the occasional route out of the backfield AND drafting a runner on day two or three.
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