Oregon Duck running back Kenjon Barner was the last selection taken, with their 6th round pick, by the Carolina Panthers in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Barner spent most of his career backing up former Duck and current San Francisco 49′er running back LaMichael James, amassing 1,856 rushing yards and 20 TDs before storming the field in 2012 with 1,767 rushing yards and 21 TDs on the ground.
At 5’9″ and 196 pounds, Barner appears faster on game tape than the 4.52-40 time he ran at the NFL combine and projects as a change of pace back, being closest in style to that of DeAngelo Williams on the Panthers’ roster. Kenjon was very productive overall in college on a very talented, deep RB corps at Oregon under Chip Kelly.
He’s an explosive runner in space and showed off his physical skills at the NFL Combine, posting several position-best drill times so he’s agile as well as having that acceleration to top speed that are sought after in running backs.
The official knocks on him is that he tends to bounce the run outside, which may work in college against slower defenders, but could frustrate him on the NFL level, so watch for that sort of thing when you see him play. He’s a liability in pass protection – no surprise for a sub-200 lb. back – but what concerns me is he has a tendency to fumble and has “average” upper-body strength and runs too high.
Ask Joe Adams about the importance of ball security, kiddo.
Overall, considering he’s a 6th-round pick, it appears Carolina Panthers’ GM David Gettleman is hedging his bets when it comes to the near future when decisions have to be made about the high-priced “Triumverate” backfield soaking up so much salary cap money. Barner will enter camp 3rd on the depth chart at halfback behind Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but provides some athletic insurance against Stewart’s inability to stay healthy.
Kenjon Barner’s best bet for himself is to hit that gym hard and attack the NFL weight training program to improve his upper-body strength, number one. If he has any issues at all with fumbles, he’ll not see much of the field. If he can keep the ball secure, he also is a threat in the kick return game, which makes me really wonder about the future of WR Joe Adams and his role in 2013.
Don’t forget about unrestricted free agents once the draft is final, folks. We here at Catcrave will keep you updated on inevitable signees there, and I’m sure some local names will turn up in the coming days.
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