Giovani Bernard has been hearing the Ray Rice comparisons since his playing days at North Carolina. They are of similar height and build. They can both run between the tackles and catch very proficiently. Both split carries with a veteran during their rookie season in the NFL before bursting out in their second season.
Well, that's what head coach Marvin Lewis hopes will happen for Bernard in 2014. He said Tuesday that he "envisions a second-year growth similar to Ray Rice" for Bernard.
Specifically, Rice saw his touches count jump from 140 to 332 from year one to year two. He caught 78 passes, gained more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage and scored eight times. Simply, he was one of the best running backs in fantasy football.
Bernard touched the ball 226 times last season, gaining more than 1,200 total yards, catching 56 passes and scoring eight times. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is still in Cincy, but that may not matter a whole lot. Rice's sophomore totals came with Willis McGahee still earning more than 100 carries and vulturing 12 touchdowns.
If the Bengals use Bernard like how the 2009 Ravens used Rice, we're talking about the youngster being a cinch-lock RB1 in all formats. He will be one of the most sought-after players in your draft.