NFL Draft Scouting Report: Bernard Pierce

Bernard Pierce“Bernard Pierce’s lack of great speed, elusiveness in space and down the field, and versatility as a running back prospect are strong concerns when projecting him to the NFL level. However, it’s his unique skill set that makes him a running back prospect that fits only a certain number of teams well, but can thrive in those situations. A relatively reserved leader for his Temple team, he’s been clean off the field and worked hard through multiple, consistent injuries over his career to get back on the field.

He’s been able to be productive despite this injuries, though the 663 carries likely have taken a toll on him as well. His unique skill set that allowed and will continue to allow Bernard Pierce to be a successful NFL back (if he can stay healthy) is his outstanding balance, body control, and raw running power he possess.”

       

PLAYER COMPARISON
Fred Jackson
PROJ. DRAFT POSITION
2nd-3rd Round
INJURY HISTORY
Concussion, hamstring injury in 2011 season
Ankle sprain in 2010, only 5 starts
Missed 1+ game from injury last 3 years

CAREER ACOLADES
Temple records for carries, rushing TDs
1st Team-MAC in 2010, Walter Camp Watchlist
MAC Fresh-of-the-Year, 1st Team-MAC in ’09

KEY STATS
Just 19 total catches in career, 3 in 2011
663 Total Career Carries; 53 career rushing TDs
273 carries, 1518 rush yards, 27 TDs in 2011
236 carries, 1361 rush yards, 16 TDs in 2009

 

Background/Character
In the many dealings with the Temple program and around Bernard Pierce, I’ve heard very little about the more-soft spoken Pierce being a distraction or in a leadership role either way. With no major off-the-field incidence, there’s nothing to look specifically to. He did aid in rallying his team around new head coach Steve Addazio. Thanks to the high volume of carries in his career (663), it seemed obvious Bernard Pierce would declare this year as long as he stayed relatively healthy and had success, both of which were accomplished. His production this year was among the best in the FBS ranks, and his ability to finish drives in the end-zone paved the way for team success. He’s had to overcome consistent injuries in his three years as the feature back with Temple (missing at least one game in each season), but thanks to his dedication to recovery and the depth/talent that Temple featured behind him, Pierce has had relatively consistent success. He will finish his college degree at a later date.

Athleticism
Bernard Pierce’s feature ability as both an athlete and a runner is his rare balance, both through contact and in adjusting in traffic, coupled with his presence of mind and body control to adjust and stay level/balanced as a runner. That rare balance, crucial for a zone blocking scheme runner like himself, allows him to pick up extra yards consistently through arm and side tackles. His balance and readjusting ability along with his power and size as a runner should make him continue to be a tough tackle in the NFL.

In his readjusting, he showcases the ability to contain and compose his body at unique angles and still keep his focus and general direction ahead thanks to his flexibility in traffic. He doesn’t have devastating cut backs nor consistent change of field ability, but his suddenness in the hole and through the initial opening is impressive, again catering to his potential in a zone blocking scheme. At around 6’0, 218, he’s built to continue to take hits at the next level, especially if he can even add a bit more bulk to improve his run blocker and hopefully keep him  healthier through contact.

Running-Ability
As far as timed speed is concerned, Pierce is a former track star in high school and was the “fastest high-school-er in Pennsylvania”, running a 10.6 100 meter dash, which likely equates to the 4.4s in the combine testing. Still, in games, he doesn’t consistently separate and get to his top speed to be a big play, down the field threat. He lacks great quickness and dynamic ability in space down the field, and relies more on sudden, decisive moves to gain separation down the field.

He doesn’t shy away from contact in the middle, but has a suddenness when he sees opening to outside, laterally quick and can explode to edge. He explodes powerfully through contact in the hole and can drive defenders in the open field with a sudden move. Plays behind his pad consistently, doesn’t open himself up to contact all that much, delivers pop in traffic and goal line situations and can be a situational, short yardage back in a zone scheme early on.

Bernard Pierce
Running-Style
Pierce’s elite vision as a runner is more than just his ability to find openings through blockers. He’s outstanding in dissecting defenses at the line of scrimmage, consistently showing the understanding of where to attack a defense through his blocking as well as when, showcasing patience before lowering pad level and powering through hole. He shows great ability to read and react suddenly and process a defense at the 2nd and 3rd level, making his lack of great speed and acceleration more neutralized as a weakness.

His instincts in both his vision pre-snap as well as inside the hole to the second level, along with his ability to set up tacklers with sudden moves allows him to break multiple tackles in traffic at 2nd level. Vision was especially showcased this season as his OL was entirely above 320 pounds and lacked consistent 2nd level blocking skill sets. He doesn’t have overly shifty feet and can’t redirect across the formation, as well as lacking the natural foot quickness to juke effectively outside the box. His aggression to the hole and vision at every level of runs allows him to maximize his power, balance, and body control as he progresses.

Non-Running
The most glaring issue with Bernard Pierce, especially as a higher round prospect is his lack of great versatility in what he can provide early for an NFL team. Only catching 19 passes in his career at Temple and being routinely rotated out for fellow junior Matt Brown on many 3rd down situations is a testament to his likely early role in the NFL. He does not have great depth as a route runner out of the backfield, utilizing screen passes and quick outside set up routes in his receptions.

He did showcase fairly solid hands in practices and in the times he was asked to be a receiver, but for an NFL running back, he’s not developed in both concentration in receiving as well as depth in routes. He also hasn’t shown a consistent, improved willingness and effectiveness as a pass blocker. Again, he is at times replaced on 3rd downs and Temple didn’t always use a running back in protection. Still, his size and power as a runner would indicate some room for improvement if he has a willingness to improve.

Summary
Bernard Pierce’s lack of great speed, elusiveness in space and down the field, and versatility as a running back prospect are strong concerns when projecting him to the NFL level. However, it’s his unique skill set that makes him a running back prospect that fits only a certain number of teams well, but can thrive in those situations. A relatively reserved leader for his Temple team, he’s been clean off the field and worked hard through multiple, consistent injuries over his career to get back on the field. He’s been able to be productive despite this injuries, though the 663 carries likely have taken a toll on him as well. His unique skill set that allowed and will continue to allow Bernard Pierce to be a successful NFL back (if he can stay healthy) is his outstanding balance, body control, and raw running power he possess. He can make a sudden cut, deflect and keep momentum forward, and regain his balance and step to stay in stride and continue to pick up chunks of yards. He’s able to break tackles without bashing himself, but by keeping tacklers off balance with sudden moves, low pad level, and his body type as a runner.

His elite level vision is what translates best to the NFL, as he dissects and processes the defense so well in the pre-snap phase, recognizing the value of position and timing, especially around the goal line. He can keep his eyes downfield but also read and react in the hole to the defense, keeping them off balance and finding gaps in the defense through contact and through the initial opening. His offensive line didn’t do him any favors with down field blocking this season, and the few big runs he had were thanks to his vision and break tackle ability. He won’t be able to be an instant three-down back in the NFL because he currently lacks the completeness to his game, something that may not come over time at all, but he has the size and power to be an adequate pass blocker and he has flashed as a receiver in the past. He still could add more weight to stay healthier and could utilize open field moves better, but his elite vision, balance, body control, and understanding of how to attack defenses is rare, and it’d be wise for a zone blocking scheme team to overlook some of his shortfalls and recognize how valuable his strengths and natural talent can be.

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