Oregon Redshirt senior Runningback Kenjon Barner will enter the 2013 draft as one of the top Running Back prospect, after deciding to return to school last season. Barner has seen a steady increase in workload through his four year college career, and almost doubled his carries after former Duck teammate LeMichael James left for the NFL. Barner has never averaged less than 6.0 YPC, and he ended the season with 21 rushing touchdowns. Barner is a dual threat runner who can also catch out of the backfield. Below I have briefly described the strengths and weaknesses I have observed in Barner’s past games.
5”11, 193 lbs.
Kenjon Barner played in a system that requires athletes to have a great amount of stamina (Oregon ran a much higher average offensive plays per game) and be quick. This is certainly a plus in Barner’s corner, as he’ll have a good feel for a game of speed that is the NFL. Barner is a speedy running back that has great lateral agility. He can turn the corner or run a counter play very effectively, and leave his opponents behind. He can cut through two defenders that are bearing down on him, and when he gets into the open field, defenders will be having a trouble trying to stop Barner. Furthermore, Kenjon Barner has a great stop-start motion when cutting or avoiding defenders, losing very little speed when he has to change directions. He can also be a threat as a receiver out of the backfield with his solid hands.
There are many concerns with Kenjon Barner that relates to his game if he is to play in the professional level. First, Barner is by all accounts a smaller player who may never earn a full-time role in the NFL. He relies a lot on his speed and quickness in his runs, and often tries to bounce to the outside for the big plays. Added to the fact that Barner does not have good vision, that can limit his impact in the NFL. There were many instances where Barner would be taken down or run into defenders that are already partially blocked, or run into his own teammate. There is a concern that he may not be able to take on many hits. In 2010, Kenjon Barner suffered a major concussion, and was held out of several games.
Next, Barner appears to hesitate a lot in the backfield, attempting to wait for the holes to open up. He is an upright runner, and may be able to get away with it in Pac-12 competition, but will find that much harder against faster and stronger defenders, especially with his already small frame and lack of power. I have not observed instances where Barner lined up as wide receiver, so there is not much information out there of him contributing as a wide receiver.
Lastly, whether it is a product of the Oregon system or something else, Barner was rarely, if ever, asked to pass block. This may work against him, because teams value a halfback who can protect the quarterback. Barner will see fewer snaps until he shows he can hold his own against pass rushers.
Kenjon Barner’s name will be called between the fourth or fifth round. His immediate contribution will most likely be a change of pace backing up a bigger back. Currently, he has a smaller frame and can become prone to injuries. Having a history of concussion will work against him. However, he does appear to not suffer any lingering effects of the head injury. Barner had an up and down performance at the combine. he excelled in the verticle jump, 3-cone drill, and 60 yard shuttle. However, he ran a slower than anticipated 40-yard dash. This does not change much for his draft stock as he’ll probably still be taken as a backup.