The San Diego running back position was supposed to have been fixed in 2010, when Ryan Mathews was selected 12th overall. Three years later, Mathews has had one 1,000 yard season, and has suffered injuries that have slowed his development as a player and an offensive leader.
In addition to Mathews, last season the Chargers played Jackie Battle, Ronnie Brown, and Curtis Brinkley to try and help the run game. The rushing offense ended up ranking 27th in the league with 1461 yards and was dead last in the league with 4 touchdowns on the ground.
The Chargers need an explosive back to come in and add a jolt to this offense. Gio Bernard is a guy who can step up and do just that.
Bernard, from the University of North Carolina, is arguably the most explosive running back in the draft. He’s 5’10”, 206 pounds, but do not let his size fool you. For his size, he is extremely powerful when it comes to getting extra yards after contact.
At the NFL Combine, he ran a 4.53 forty, a 4.12 20 yard shuffle, and an 11.41 60 yard shuttle. His shuttle times were in the best out of the running backs. His forty time may catch your eye because a 4.53 isn’t incredibly fast. However, Bernard is known for his lateral quickness, which shows in his shuttle times. He is extremely quick in and out of cuts, leading to crisp routes out of the backfield and nice cuts to find open holes in the offensive line.
Bernard was on the UNC roster for three seasons. Last season his stats were quite impressive: 1228 yards on the ground and twelve touchdowns, with a 6.7 yards per carry average. He was also effective catching the ball, grabbing 47 passes for 490 yards and five touchdowns.
On top of all of that, the good news doesn’t stop there. He is also a punt returner: 16 returns, 263 yards, and 2 touchdowns (including this knock out punch against NC State):
His downside, however, is something that he has in common with Ryan Mathews…. injuries. Gio Bernard suffered a torn ACL his freshman season and missed the entire year. He was then redshirted. He was able to recover from the ACL tear and play his entire redshirt freshman season. In his redshirt sophomore season, he missed two games due to injury and was limited in a few games after that. This raises questions as to if he could be an every down running back.
For injury questions alone, a first round talent may slide to anywhere in the second to as far as the third round. If he is available at 45, the Chargers should definitely look into grabbing this electric back.