Kenjon Barner, Oregon
Position: Running Back
Class: Redshirt Senior
Size: 5’9, 188 lbs. (Official Senior Bowl Measurements)
By Eric Bendig
Strengths: Barner is a world class athlete who not only has straight line “track” speed, but lateral movement skills that so many sprinters fail to possess as well. Was part of a very talented group of skill players at Oregon and still managed to lead the Ducks with 1,767 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground. Barner eliminates defenders angles with his speed and, if given room, is liable to take it to the house on any given touch of the football. He possesses extremely great cutting ability and has the instincts that an NFL running back needs.
He has unbelievable vision and instincts as a runner, things that cannot be coached. Barner will find a crease in the smallest of places and put one foot in the ground and be full speed right away. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and can really separate from defenders and be a mismatch in the passing game. His speed and lateral movement skills can stretch defenses thin and he actually runs with decent power for a smaller back.
Weaknesses: You have to start out by saying that Barner’s size is going to be a question mark going through this draft process. He does have some injury issues over his career, mostly minor injuries during games where he had to leave and not return. Those injuries were against Oregon State and California mainly. Minor injuries in the NFL will happen but can he play through the pain of the 16 game schedule and 300 pound NFL defenders? Another major concern for most people is hi pass protection skills.
After reviewing film, I realized he was basically never asked to do so and therefore people are assuming he isn’t very good. The question will be can he learn to be a good pass blocker and will his size be a detriment? The few reps I did see of Barner protection on pass plays, he was adequate at best. Barner can make defenders miss with his speed, but is very easily tackled on the first hit. He runs a little stiff and upright at times. Barner has had 12 career fumbles and does not tuck the ball away in traffic at times. He will try to bounce a lot of run plays outside instead of trusting his vision and instincts, and in the NFL that is a recipe for a disaster.
Overall Impression: Barner, in my mind, is an elite talent. I think he possesses a skill set that is very comparable, or even better, than Former USC RB/Current Miami Dolphin Reggie Bush. NFL teams will be smart in that they know drafting a player like Barner is not going to compute to 30 carries a game from him, but what it does do is allow for teams to get creative with the playbook. Barner runs great routes out of the backfield and if teams can game plan to get Barner one on one with linebackers or safeties, he can run by just about anyone.
There is a silver lining with his fumbling issues as well, and that is that he went from 4, 4, and 3 fumbles from his freshmen to junior year, all the way down to one fumble last year. His size and durability worry me, but overall I think Barner will be a steal if he lasts until the end of the 2nd round or later. In today’s NFL, there is just too much of a call for playmakers and Barner is one of them in this draft class that could provide a spark from day one.
Projected Draft Position: Late 2nd- Mid 3rd