Size: Barner is 5’9”, 196 pounds and while that is a pretty respectable weight given his height I still think he could stand to get stronger in his lower body. He certainly looked like he had more lower body strength and better balance as a senior, so I’m wondering if he could continue to get stronger. I’m not sure he can be a feature back at this size given his playing style, but he projects as a quality complementary back right now.
Speed: This is one of Barner’s strengths. He is very fast and while he timed at 4.52 at the NFL combine he ran a 4.39 at his pro day and looks like a 4.45 guy (if not a little faster) when I watch him. He isn’t going to be the fastest man in the NFL, but he is certainly fast enough to rip off big chunks of yardage and get to the edge at the next level.
Quickness: Barner is very quick, and it’s obvious right away when you start watching him. He can make defenders miss in the open field due to his shiftiness, he hits the hole quickly and accelerates very fast. His quickness is very impressive and it’s one of my favorite parts about his game.
Inside Running: Barner isn’t going to be a great inside runner in the NFL in my opinion, but if he was drafted into a zone scheme he would be better than if he was in a man blocking scheme. He has a lot of experience on zone runs thanks to the scheme he played in at Oregon. As a junior I thought his legs went dead on contact too much and that he didn’t have very good balance, but both of those issues seemed to be less severe as a senior. His balance was better and he seemed to pump his legs a little better once contact was initiated. He also showed that he could run through arm tackles and bounce off defenders who went for shoulder stingers without going down and that was good to see. He’s never going to be a power back, but if he got stronger and continued to work on his leg drive I think he could get more yardage after initial contact.
Outside Running: This is where Barner shines. He has the speed to get the edge, the quickness to stop and start on a dime, and he is very comfortable running patiently and then planting his foot and exploding through the hole. He is very good running outside and that should continue at the next level.
Receiving: Barner may not have been a frequent target in Oregon’s passing game (50 receptions in the last 3 years, including 20 as a senior) but he showed soft hands and I think he will be an effective check down and screen player in the NFL. He should be ready to contribute as a receiver immediately.
Blocking: This is one of Barner’s biggest Achilles heels. His lack of great size and strength limits him as a blocker and on top of that he was very rarely asked to block at Oregon. He lacks the skill set and the experience to be a good pass blocker early in his career so he is going to need some time to get coached up in this area. Depending on the team that drafts him that could keep him off the field early.
Vision: Barner has good vision on outside runs and in open space, but I was less impressed by his vision on inside runs. When the hole was obvious he would hit it immediately, but when looking for cut-back lanes he often hesitated, stopped his feet and danced in the backfield before finding somewhere to run. I think that will be a problem in the NFL and while it didn’t happen on every inside run it definitely happened enough that it concerned me.
Ball Security: I have some questions about Barner’s ball security in the NFL as well. He didn’t fumble a lot when I watched him, but he didn’t seem to protect the ball when contact was coming and there were times that he let the ball get away from his frame when he was attempting to elude defenders or fight for more yardage. He has to be careful about that, but this is definitely coachable.
Overall: Barner is an intriguing player but he’s definitely not my favorite back in this class. He’s got the speed, quickness, hands and outside vision that you want, but he lacks power right now even though he was better in this regard as a senior. He just doesn’t strike me as a “tough” player and that cooled me on him a bit. He’s never going to have great power and he’s not going to be that type of back, but his relative lack of leg drive concerns me. Combine that with his inconsistent inside vision and I’m not sure he’s going to be much more than a change of pace back that gets carries to the outside, zone runs, screens and check downs in the NFL. If he was a tougher player I might be convinced that he could get stronger and become a more complete runner, but right now I don’t think that’s the case. He’s worth a pick in the 4th-5th round range, but he’s not going to be a feature back in the NFL in my opinon.
Projection: 4th-5th round. I think he will end up being a day 3 pick, likely before the middle of the 5th round. He’s got enough big play speed that a team looking for a complementary guy will grab him in this range.