UNC, NC State share spotlight on day two of NFL Draft

csmith@newsobserver.comApril 26, 2013 

For the first time since 1967, no running back was taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. But the Cincinnati Bengals didn’t wait long to take the first one off the board on the second day, selecting Giovani Bernard with the 37th overall pick – the fifth pick in second round.

The Tar Heels running back torched the ACC last season for 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground, but he was taken for more than his rushing ability.

“I like him a lot because he catches the ball out of the backfield,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. said. “That’s one of the most important aspects that they need in Cincinnati … you look at his versatility and that’s what’s very impressive.”

The 5-foot-8 running back compiled 92 catches for 852 yards and six touchdowns during his two-year tenure with Carolina and was an explosive punt returner this past year, scoring two touchdowns on just 16 punt returns.

Bernard has faith that he can excel at the next level though he was not seen as the No. 1 running back according to many scouts.

"I believe in the gifts that God gave me," Bernard said during a conference call. "There are a lot of great backs out there. You really can't do much but leave it in God's hands. I guess you can say he really took care of me today."

Bernard will join BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who is the polar opposite of the North Carolina product. Green-Ellis is a grinder-style running back who has less than 400 receiving yards in his career and would rather burst through a tackle than elude defenders like Bernard.

“Gio is a tremendous talent who is a terrific person off the field,” head coach Larry Fedora said. “He is an outstanding playmaker who did everything he could to help our team win.”

One player that has seen Bernard’s ability firsthand is former Wolfpack cornerback David Amerson, who was taken by the Washington Redskins with the 51st overall pick in the second round – their first pick in the draft.

Amerson was named to the 2011 All-ACC first team after breaking the conference record with 13 interceptions, drawing a lot of interest from the NFL. Several scouts viewed him as the top corner heading into last season.

“He is an interceptor supreme,” Kiper said. “He struggled against Tennessee at the beginning of the year, then it seemed he lost some confidence. I thought he was a mid-first round pick last year, but his stock dropped.”

Amerson’s production dropped off drastically in 2012. He hauled in just five interceptions and was constantly out of position against the Volunteers, who beat him for two touchdowns.

While he recovered in the combine with a 4.44 40-yard dash, Amerson still found himself picked in the middle of the second round.

Amerson admitted to the flaws pointed out by several draft scouts and said he plans to work with the defensive coaching staff for the Redskins -- one that includes former head coaches Jim Haslett and Raheem Morris.

“I think I’ll have to get a lot more smarter in the game, be dedicated in the film room and be ready for going against big-time receivers week in and week out, going against the best talent,” he said to the Washington Post. “It’s more of a mind adjustment more than anything.”

“The Redskins are betting on Amerson from 2011,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said. “The defensive backs coach will have to get his mind right, his eyes right and get him back to the player he was. If you get that Amerson, it’s a great pick. If you get the one from this year, this is probably a reach.”

After a whirlwind five-year career at N.C. State that was both controversial and, at times, glorious, Amerson’s teammate Mike Glennon was the third player from the Triangle teams to come off the board on the second day of the draft.

Glennon started for the Wolfpack for two years after the departure of Russell Wilson and led the team to two straight winning seasons. The 6-foot-7 quarterback was taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 73rd pick overall in the third round.

“He’s got great stature, arm talent and pretty good movement skills in the pocket,” former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer said. “I spent a week with him last summer in my Elite 11 camp and he’s got a great football IQ … there are some concerns there, but I like the pick and I like his prospects.”

Glennon finished his career with 7,411 yards passing for 63 touchdowns and 31 interceptions.

While Bernard and Amerson could start in the NFL this season, Glennon will likely have to wait behind quarterback Josh Freeman, who has secured the starting role for the Buccaneers during the past two seasons.

The final pick of the night from the area schools came when Carolina offensive tackle Brennan Williams was selected by the Houston Texans with the 89th overall pick in the third round.

Williams joins Jonathan Cooper, who was taken in the first round, who shared the line together last season. This marks the first time since 1985 that two UNC offensive linemen have been picked in the same year of the draft.

“I’m excited for Brennan and we’re proud of his accomplishments,” said Fedora. “He’s a good kid who has the size, strength and mobility to be a very good player at the next level.

Smith: 919-829-4841; @RCorySmith

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