Did Temple running back Bernard Pierce make the right decision by declaring early for the NFL draft?
Throughout most of my posts, I’ve been fairly positive up to this point. From endorsing Juan Castillo to keep his job, to being relatively complimentary of Andy Reid, to being enthusiastic about my Sixers, I’d say I’ve been downright full of holiday cheer. However, if you read the bio, you know there’s also a realist and some pessimism wrapped up in the paradox that is The Thrill. So despite this being the “pro” side of the argument, there’s a heavy dose of skepticism built into my argument that Temple running back Bernard Pierce absolutely made the right decision by declaring for the NFL draft.
The Protege made a fine argument for Pierce staying in school, and as a fellow proud Temple alum, I agree it would be nice to have the record-breaking back return and try to lead the Owls to a MAC title. However, if we’re speaking strictly about the best interests of Bernard Pierce, then the decision needs to be based solely on his current stock, the ability for it to rise or fall, and Bernard’s ability to improve significantly enough to improve it.
As you will see in The Protege’s own argument, the numbers that Pierce compiled this season would suggest that his stock is as high as it will ever be. Pierce didn’t just have a career year by his standards; he had an outstanding year for just about any running back in the nation. The odds of him improving, or even matching those numbers, are minimal to say the least. Even if Pierce stays healthy (a big if and I’ll get to that) for a second consecutive year, running backs typically don’t string together consecutive career years. Ask Chris Johnson, Shaun Alexander and co. about striking while the iron is hot after a career year. Only the most elite backs, like Adrian Peterson at both levels, maintain that type of pace. And as much as I like Bernard, I just don’t feel like he is that type of elite level back. He needs to strike while the iron is hot.
As for Pierce’s ability to raise that stock by diversifying his skill set, I just don’t see it. Sure Pierce could always improve as a receiver and blocker, as he did this year, but I’m not sure that’s enough to boost his current 3rd/4th round stock into the first or second round. Yes, the NFL likes complete players, but they like athletes and raw ability even more; it’s the reason players are consistently boosted by combine performances while players with better college production drop out of the top of the draft. To me, the only way Pierce improves his draft stock is with a standout combine performance, particularly a faster than expected 40 time.
Because to me, speed is the (2nd) biggest question mark about Pierce, not production. Another year of standout production will not make him faster, or more explosive which is what the NFL wants from first round backs. Pierce is a big, tough, physical runner that could score a lot of touchdowns in the NFL being a great short yardage, between the tackles back….if he stays healthy.
As The Protege will point out I’m sure (I know I would), Pierce played almost every game this season, and with the exception of a fluke concussion, had his healthiest season after buying into a new offseason conditioning program. But that’s only the rosy side of Pierce’s health story this season. In order to maintain his delicate health status, it took much more than a new dedication to offseason conditioning. Rumor has it that Pierce hardly ever practiced, at least not fully, in order to help keep him as close to 100% as possible. If Pierce requires that kind of maintenance, does he really want to gamble that he will be able to stay healthy enough during his senior season to not affect his already negatively?
To me, while there is a slim chance that Pierce could elevate his stock with another great year, I think there is much more potential downside if he had returned. He now needs to get himself in top notch condition in order to wow the scouts at the combine. While our hearts may have wanted Pierce to choose cherry and white, I’m glad, for his sake, that he chose green.
By Kyle Fisher a.k.a The Protege
I am a proud Temple Alum. I am a proud fan of Temple Athletics. Seeing the success that Bernard Pierce had while being the feature back at TU leading him to the NFL makes me PROUD. The only thing that bothers me about it is the fact that Temple won’t have him as their primary weapon next season.
Normally I am a stats guy. Big on numbers. Unfortunately, that’s one of my enemies in this argument. Pierce finished this season with 9 school records including rushing touchdowns in a season as well as points scored, for a season and a game. Oh, not to mention he finished second in the entire nation in rushing touchdowns. But I digress.
Too bad for me my argument doesn’t matter because Pierce already declared for the draft. But, I feel as though he would have benefited from another year of college football. I understand the nay-sayers who are worried about injuries. I have had the pleasure of speaking to both Pierce and Temple running backs coach Tyree Foreman. Both of them confirmed that Bernard really bought into the new off season work outs and that was evident from Bernard’s ability to stay healthy this season. His only injury this year was a concussion on a play where he really should not have been running the ball. In my eyes, he got better every season. There is no reason to say that with another year under this coaching staff who not only figured out how to keep him healthy, but also has seemed to bring his ability to its fullest, that he can’t increase his stock for the draft.
Right now, I view him as a late third, early fourth round pick. But, with another season of success like the last one, he could easily jump to the first round in my opinion. At the latest, mid-second. This would not only be due to his success on the field but, Temple is a growing brand. So much so, that ESPN asked them to be in the first bowl game this year, which they won might I add, due to their high tv ratings during the season. With the name Temple University growing and the name Bernard Pierce growing, if he stays healthy (like I said he has already shown he can) his stock would fly sky high. This is the loyal Temple fan in me now but so would Temple’s name and value. The only person who would get hurt from his staying one more season is “The Bug.” Matt Brown will be the feature back for TU now that Pierce has left. In my eyes, he should have waited until after his senior year, but not everyone thinks like me and I wish him the best of luck in the NFL. He knows he will have Owls from sea to shining sea watching him play.