UNC Football: Will Gio Stay or Will He Go?


Sophomore running back, Giovani Bernard, has been the brightest of stars this past season for the North Carolina football team. Some experts give him credit as being the best back in the country. NFL scouts love him. He’s fast, quick and powerful with great vision. However, the NFL has a policy that a person cannot enter the NFL draft unless they are at least 3 years removed from high school. The NBA has a similar rule that a person has to be at least 1 year removed from high school, which has bred college basketball’s “one and dones.” So under normal circumstances, the NFL policy would make the person roughly 21 years old or after their junior year of college. The issue here is that Bernard was red-shirted his 1styear at North Carolina, therefore he is a sophomore on the field but a junior everywhere else. So this arises the question: Will Gio go to the NFL?

Oct 27, 2012; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels running back Giovani Bernard (26) on the sidelines in the first half at Kenan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

Of all the potential 2013 mock drafts I could find currently, Rob Rang of CBS Sports has Bernard being drafted the highest at 19th to the Cincinnati Bengals. Many mock drafts have him being drafted early in the 2nd round. Here is the thing that makes me believe that Bernard will enter the draft: even though he’s a projected late 1st rounder or early 2nd rounder, he’s the 1st running back listed on anyone’s draft. So if you are an NFL team that is struggling at running back, you want Bernard. Also, the late 1st rounders make a less money than top 10 guys, but you are getting drafted to a better team with a better chance of winning a Super Bowl. Let’s say that Bernard drops to the mid-20’s and the Green Bay Packers or the Denver Broncos pick him up. He would be in a position to instantly win a Super Bowl instead of being part of a lesser team’s rebuilding year.

Another factor that cannot be ignored is the amount of money he would receive. The big numbers for unproven rookies has dropped considerably since the latest NFL collective bargaining agreement. However, even the lower numbers are more than most people will make in a lifetime. As a comparison, Tampa Bay drafted Doug Martin, running back out of Boise State, last year with the 31st pick. This is close to where Bernard is projected to be drafted. Martin received a 4-year contract worth $6.778 million with $5.472 million of that guaranteed. On top of that was a sweet $3.376 million signing bonus. I think we can all agree that that’s a pretty nice payday. Also, a thing that Bernard must factor in is that all those digits on his paycheck could dwindle if he returns next year and gets injured. The lone factor in Bernard staying at UNC is pure loyalty to the program and potentially the want for him to finish his education at North Carolina. I am not sure that that will be enough to keep him in Carolina blue.

I would say that UNC has the potential to get to a BCS bowl next season and that could be a persuader to Bernard. Looking at the seniors that will be graduating does not bode well though. Starting offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper, Brennan Williams, and Travis Bond are all seniors and will all be leaving. Not to say that UNC will not be highly competitive next year with their 2013 offensive line but losing 3 starters would be discouraging to any running back.

So if you happen to read his Gio, I think I can speak for all Tar Heel faithful when I say we would absolutely love to have you back in Kenan Stadium at least 1 more year. However, if you chose to continue your career in the NFL next year, we wish you the best of luck and would like to thank you for all your hard work in advancing the Tar Heel football program.