DraftBrowns.com Staff Writer: Justin Higdon
Running back isn’t high on the Browns’ list of priorities this offseason after spending the number three overall pick on Trent Richardson last year. Richardson is obviously expected to carry the load, and Monterio Hardesty proved last season that he can be a capable backup. But the Browns could still use a change of pace back who can hit home runs with his speed. If they decide to go in that direction some time on Day Three of the draft, Oregon’s Kenjon Barner could become a viable target.
Kenjon Barner Oregon 5’9 1/8” 188
In the Ducks’ win over USC this past season, Barner rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns. Yet despite toting the rock 20 or more times in nine separate contests, and 30 or more times three times, most analysts don’t view him as an every down runner at the NFL level. It’s a fair viewpoint considering how often Oregon play calling often dictates that Barner bounce outside as soon as he realizes the middle is clogged. But Barner runs it inside more than people think. He isn’t going to break a ton of tackles but his shifty running helps him avoid big hits, and when he does find contact he can still finish strong.
Barner has terrific field vision and often runs on offense like he is retuning a kickoff. He has experience returning kicks as well, and that versatility will serve him well at the next level. Barner is an excellent receiver, with a career best 18 catches for 219 yards (12.2 yards per catch) and a TD this season, but he is rarely asked to pass protect. He’ll need to add significant strength and improve his technique before he can contribute regularly in that role. He’ll also benefit from NFL coaching when it comes to staying patient and resisting the urge to bounce his runs to the corner.
Considering the improvement over the past couple of years, it’s reasonable to expect that Barner will respond well to such direction. He may start off as a change of pace back, but his patience, vision, speed and willingness to get better make him a potential riser in the draft process as a player who could eventually graduate to a more prominent role.
Vs. Fresno State (’12)
- Runs inside more than most people think.
- Oregon’s blocking is strong up front in this game.
- Will bounce to the outside but isn’t looking to do so initially – he looks willing to take it inside if he can.
- He does do a lot of heading to the corner.
- Again, it looks like the calls more than an issue of his willingness or ability to take it inside
Vs. Washington State (’12)
- Excellent long field speed.
- Shows vision like a kick returner on early TD run.
- Able to pick his way through traffic.
- Seems to always avoid serious contact.
- Good receiver out of the backfield.
- Does a good job using his off hand to ward of tacklers
Vs. USC (’11)
- Shows some good patience waiting for blocks/screens to set up
- Tough offense to evaluate because of unconventional plays, but he showed up well against a very fast D
Vs. Arizona (’11)
- More good patience, burst through the hole
- Looks much faster vs. Arizona D than USC’s fast D
- Makes nice over the shoulder catch
- Has to be careful about reversing field in NFL
- Shows good balance after getting tripped up
Vs. Arizona State (’11)
- Gets stripped early
- Bottled up a bit but shows receiving ability again – just not used much in that role
- Even when bottled up early he’s dangerous and can break a long run as the D wears down
- Quick in his cuts, can change directions quickly and walk a tightrope on the sideline
- Keeps legs pumping after contact
Vs. Oregon State (’10)
- Tries to bounce outside a lot more early in his career
- Another nice over the shoulder catch for TD
Vs. Tennessee (’10)
- Doesn’t secure the ball on kick return – gets stripped
- Kick return for TD later though