Each week in the world of fantasy football is a battle of attrition. Fantasy managers do what they can at the draft to set themselves up for success, but all that goes out the door once injuries start to occur. This week is no different. With the news that Cincinnati Bengals RB Joe Mixon will miss Week 7 due to a foot injury, all eyes turn to the depth chart for who will replace him. Can backup RB Giovani Bernard be a fantasy-relevant option in Mixon’s absence?
Joe Mixon’s injury and fantasy production
Before we look at Giovani Bernard’s fantasy value in Week 7, let’s first look at Mixon’s injury history. Mixon missed two games in 2017 due to a concussion and two more games in 2018 due to minor knee surgery. Other than that, he’s been relatively healthy for a starting running back in the NFL. Nothing suggests that he has a history of anything major that would hinder his recovery.
This time, it’s a foot injury which he apparently suffered in the second half of the Week 6 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts that’s causing him to miss time. He showed up on practice reports early in the week as a limited participant. Still, he wasn’t officially ruled out until Friday afternoon, much to the chagrin of Mixon’s managers who could have started someone on Thursday Night Football in his place had the news broken a day earlier.
For the season, Mixon appears to be a very solid fantasy option. He is RB9 on the year in fantasy with 99.6 PPR points. His 16.6 PPR points per game puts him at RB12, making him a true RB1 in terms of fantasy production based on his year-to-date stats. However, this is largely due to his explosive performance in Week 4, where he scored 42.1 PPR points, almost half of his total through six weeks. If you remove Mixon’s Week 4 performance, his PPG drops to 11.5, RB2 numbers at best.
This boom-or-bust potential has frustrated Mixon managers this year because he hasn’t exactly been consistent. His Consistency Score (CS) is a 4.73, putting him at RB20. He has the ability to go off any week due to his talent and opportunity, but due to the poor offensive line and his team always playing from behind, he’s not someone managers have been able to lean on every week.
Giovani Bernard’s fantasy production this season
Now that Mixon has been ruled out, enter Giovani Bernard. Fantasy managers are likely familiar with Bernard as a lower level handcuff over the past few seasons. He was likely on your waiver wire before the Mixon news breaking. This is mainly because, as a fantasy asset of his own, Bernard hasn’t exactly been worth owning very often.
For the season, Bernard has 37.9 PPR points, putting him at RB52. His 6.3 PPR points per game puts him at RB45. Bernard’s biggest game was in Week 6 of this season, where he rushed eight times for 15 yards, caught all three targets for another 13 yards, and scored his first touchdown since September 30, 2018. Not exactly results that fantasy managers are desperate to scoop up.
That being said, Bernard does have something no one else on the Bengals roster currently offers: experience. As a team, the Bengals generally only start three running backs. Behind Mixon and Bernard, the team has given only one carry to another running back, and that also came last week when Samaje Perine took that one carry for a whopping zero yards.
The team does draw up some gadget plays to get their receivers some rush attempts, but it’s clear that Bernard will be the main back with Mixon out, and that’s something fantasy managers can sink their teeth into.
Can you trust Giovani Bernard in fantasy against the Browns?
Now that it’s clear that Mixon won’t see any action, and it’s clear that the team doesn’t really trust anyone outside of Bernard, does this mean that Bernard is in line for a monster day against Cleveland? Well, it’s certainly possible, but it’s hard to call it likely.
Cleveland ranks fifth in Defense Points Against Consistency (DPAC), meaning they consistently give up fantasy points to opposing running backs. So far, in 2020, the Browns have given up an average of 17.9 points to the position. If Bernard is indeed the feature back for the Bengals, his upside is very high. It’s his downside that scares me, though.
On the year, the Bengals offensive line has easily been their biggest weakness. If we assume that Mixon is more talented than Bernard, then it’s hard to imagine Bernard outperforming Mixon, even if he’s given the lion’s share of the carries.
For Mixon managers who are scrambling, or for managers with running backs on byes, I definitely think Bernard is a fine option, but outside of that, don’t expect Bernard to put up a solid RB1 performance to rescue your team. If you have better options, play them, but if not, Bernard is a fine fill-in who could help your team squeak out a win.
Want more fantasy football analysis and news?
Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @PFN365 to stay up to date with all things around the NFL and the 2020 fantasy football season. Also, continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis while also visiting our fantasy football section for more coverage and up-to-date rankings.
Andrew Hall is a writer for PFN covering the NFL and Fantasy Football. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndrewHallFF.