Winning your fantasy football league is all about successfully adapting to the inevitable injuries on your roster. Joe Mixon suffered an ankle injury in Week 1 and is considered “day-to-day”, although he didn’t practice on Wednesday. If he misses time, Giovani Bernard is set to see a big role in Cincinnati’s offense. However, just because Bernard’s seeing snaps doesn’t mean he’s going to match Mixon’s expected production. Let’s take a dive into what we can expect out of Giovani Bernard if Joe Mixon misses Week 2.
Fantasy Football: Setting Expectations for Giovani Bernard if Joe Mixon Can’t Play
Bernard’s Skill Set
Let’s start by breaking down what Giovani Bernard can and cannot do on the football field. Bernard initially joined the Bengals in 2013 to serve as the lightning to Jeremy Hill’s thunder. Over the first three years of his career, Bernard recorded 2,105 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on 492 rushing attempts, good for 4.3 yards-per-carry. Additionally, Bernard added another 148 receptions for 1,335 yards and five touchdowns.
At his best, Bernard is a solid dual-threat who can play on all three downs. While he’s not particularly amazing at anything, he doesn’t have to come off the field in any situation. Bernard missed six games to injury in 2016 and the Bengals drafted Mixon in 2017, so Bernard’s workload has considerably decreased over the past three seasons. That said, he’s still averaging 4.0 yards-per-carry and 8.1 yards-per-reception over that timeframe.
Mixon missed two games in 2018, and Bernard saw the majority of the work in his absence. In those two games, Bernard totaled 130 rushing yards (4.81 YPC) and three touchdowns to go along with 52 receptions on nine receptions, making him the RB6 over this two-week timeframe. Giovani Bernard can still be effective, the only question is how Zach Taylor is going to use him.
Giovani Bernard Usage
Last year, Bernard essentially took on the entire load in Mixon’s absence. Former head coach Marvin Lewis preferred to use one lead back, which obviously boosted Bernard’s output when Mixon was sidelined. Early returns suggest Zach Taylor is going to do the exact same thing.
Taylor talked about using Mixon and Bernard in a committee approach, but that’s because he believed in Bernard’s playmaking ability on the field. Based on Week 1 snap counts, Taylor will give Bernard all he can handle in the backfield. According to Pro Football Reference, Bernard led the Bengals’ running backs with a 62% snap percentage. While that number was inflated by Mixon’s injury, it’s important to note that third-string running back Samaje Perine only played in one snap all night. Bernard became “the guy” in the backfield with Mixon hobbled.
Bernard proved last year he can put up RB1 numbers in Mixon’s absence, and he has a favorable matchup in Week 2. The San Francisco 49ers improved their defensive front over the offseason, but this still projects as an average run defense. Football Outsiders ranked San Francisco as the 21st-best run defense in Week 1 and they allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to running backs in 2018. While it’s not the worst defense in the world, this certainly isn’t a reincarnation of the 1985 Bears.
If Joe Mixon doesn’t play, you need to put Giovani Bernard into your lineup. Bernard is still a good player who should see the grand majority of the work in Mixon’s absence. He has a favorable matchup and proved last year that he can put up RB1 numbers when given a large role. Even if you’re not the Mixon owner, pick him up and put him in your starting lineup.
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