Fantasy Football 2016: Gio Bernard or Jeremy Hill[the_ad id=”58837″]For the third season in a row, fantasy owners find themselves looking towards the backfield of the Cincinnati Bengals and asking – “Which one do I choose?” While the choice of Gio Bernard or Jeremy Hill is not a position battle destined to command the curiosity of the footballing free world in a manner akin to that of Joe Montana and Steve Young, it was quite the conundrum for those of us running fantasy teams in 2015.
Both running backs are talented, and both can be productive. Yet, much like when you are offered pizza or tacos and told you can only have one, it is a hard call to make, and one that needs to be considered carefully (Note – when given the choice, you should always choose pizza. And I say that as a deep admirer of a good taco). After such consideration, it seems to me that the player fantasy owners should choose is Bernard.
In reaching this decision, it was necessary to study four game critical parts of each players 2015 production. Each of these parts offer important insight into how a player is used during a game, and most importantly how they produced. The first area is 1st down rushing attempts. This was a clear win for Bernard, as the table below shows.
|Running Back||1st Down Rush Atts||1st Rush Down Yards||1st Down YPC|
On 36 more carries on 1st down, Hill was able to amass ONE more yard than his stable mate Bernard. Without a more in depth look at what fronts or coverage was faced on each of these downs, the simple mathematics of the situation tells us that Bernard was simply more efficient when rushing on 1st down, increasing the odds that he would remain on the field and be given more snaps and opportunities. Hill’s 3.3 yards per carry average harkens back to an earlier “three yards and cloud of dust” age of offensive football, and in 2016 is far from an attractive prospect.
If 1st down is essential to setting the tone of a drive, then 3rd down is vital in ensuring the survival of one. In this area, Bernard’s supremacy is once again evident.
|NAME||3rd RU Atts||3rd RU Yards||3rd YPC|
Bernard is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, and as a result is more likely to be on the field on 3rd down than Hill. Given this, it is unsurprising that Hill sees his rushing attempts total dwarfed by Bernard’s. Again, the argument could be made that Hill may only be trotted out to carry the ball when one or two yards are needed, but the purpose of this article is not so much to assess the situational effectiveness of these players, but to see who will give their fantasy owners more points. Hill may well have converted all 15 of his rushing attempts into 1st downs, while Bernard’s 5.8 ypc may have been pointless when his team needed six yards every single time. But Hill gave me 3.6 fantasy points, and Gio gave you 16.8.
Gio’s skills as a pass catcher have been mentioned, and he was given more chances to showcase these talents in 2015 than Hill.
Hill enjoys the edge when it comes to catch rate, snaring 78.9% of his targets compared to the 74.2% of Bernard, but with Bernard seeing three and half more looks than Hill quantity truly outweighs quality in this regard. Bernard has been compared by some to former Philadelphia Eagles back Brian Westbrook, a tremendous pass catcher with an Eagles record 90 receptions in the 2007 season, and given Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones have left and Tyler Eifert is likely to miss time at the start of the season, there is a very real possibility that Bernard could trail only A.J. Green for targets and receptions in the 2016 season.
So is there no hope for Hill? Should he be ignored at all costs in our fantasy drafts forever more (well, at least this season)? Not at all. In one very important aspect, Hill offers more value than Bernard. That aspect is red zone production.
|NAME||RZ ATTS||RZ TDS||RZ TA||RZ REC||RZ TDs|
Given nine more red zone opportunities (targets and rushing attempts), Hill was able to penetrate the opposition’s end zone a total of 12 times, compared to the two scores from Bernard. Hill’s size advantage in the compressed area of the field makes him a more solid option on the ground than Bernard, and with Green and Eifert monopolising targets Bernard’s pass catching talents are frequently uncalled for inside the opposition’s 20 yard line. But, given the other information contained in this article, this adds up to Hill at present having touchdown dependent fantasy appeal, and there is perhaps no flakier nor flukier metric in football than touchdowns scored.
Going back to the question at the beginning of the article, regarding pizza or tacos, in this scenario, Bernard is clearly the pizza. Hill must be seen as a taco that, while occasionally fantastic, is likely to be a mostly bland option, sadly lacking in sizzle.
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Neil’s been playing fantasy football for ten years, including a victory in 2014 in a league arranged by NFL.com Fantasy expert Adam Rank. Huge Philadelphia Eagles fan, and follows the fortunes of the England cricket team, usually with his head in his hands for both. Neil lives with his fiancé Kate and their daughter Zoe. He is an atrocious Words with Friends player.