With the 182nd pick of the 2013 NFL Draft the Carolina Panthers took Oregon running back Kenjon Barner. This was the last pick by the Panthers and the least talked but possibly a very special weapon on offense. Barner can be the type of weapon that Darren Sproles was for the Chargers and now has become a little annoyance for our Carolina Panthers. While
Sproles is annoying due to the fact he scurries the Saints out of trouble often when the Panthers play them, no one can argue that he is not a special player. There seems to be a new trend of short speedy running backs showing up on NFL rosters to come in and become a “change of pace” runner on 3rd down. While many NFL teams have tried to find reliable running backs like Sproles who can do this at a consistent rate, many have failed. I think the Panthers have found theirs in Kenjon Barner.
The All-American Duck will be behind DeAngelo Williams, fellow Oregon alumni Jonathan Stewart, and possibly Mike Tolbert who served as both 3rd string running back and starting full back last year. More than likely Barner and Tolbert will share touches in the Panthers backfield behind Double Trouble and possibly turn it into a Four-Headed Dragon at running back for Carolina. But no matter what position on the depth chart he is if he does what I know he can do then he will get all the playing time he needs. Currently during Panthers training camp Barner has been doing exactly what I was hoping he would do. He is showing
incredible speed and ability to cut to the outside without hesitation along with his skills at catching the ball in the backfield. All of these things can make for an absolute wild card on offense like the Saints have in Sproles. This is of course only training camp but if you watched an Oregon game last year you know fully well what we have in this little man.
Even though Sproles had a very good senior year at Kansas State, Kenjon had a better one. Kenjon Barner had 278 attempts, 1767 yards, and 21 touchdowns while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. While Darren Sproles had 244 attempts, 1318 yards, and 11 touchdowns averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Barner did have more attempts but his numbers in every other category outweigh how many more times he got the ball, especially the average yards per carry. Kenjon also had better receiving stats in college. But many things can change in between college and the NFL though, some people are just better suited for the NFL than college. So even though Kenjon was better in college that doesn’t mean he can be better or even equal to Sproles. This is when people use their own personal eye tests to judge players and their
potentials in the NFL because stats never can tell the whole story. When I watched Kenjon Barner I was amazed by what I saw. His speed and playmaking ability was possibly some of the best I have seen in a long time. There were times I was stunned in amazement of what I was seeing him do, and trust me I am not over exaggerating. His style of play was helped by the Chip Kelly offense but the type of athleticism he possesses will fit into any system that he is utilized correctly. Even though Darren Sproles is an amazing player I know Kenjon Barner is stronger, more explosive, better receiver, and possibly even faster after running a 4.39 40 time compared to Sproles 4.49.
I know whenever the 6th round came around in the draft and the Panthers had essentially taken all offense except for offensive guard Edmund Kugbila a lot of Panthers fan were beginning to the that Dave Gettleman the Panthers new general manager had left his star quarterback Cam Newton high and dry by giving him no help for his third season. I was also starting to think Gettleman was going to make Cam live with what he had for one more year until I heard Kenjon Barners name announced. I then realized they had just given Cam Newton the exact weapon he needs, a man who can not only get him a quick first down but also a reliable running back he can throw to when the pass rush is getting too close. DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert are great running backs that complement each other very well but none of them could ever catch a pass for a first down or even a good gain consistently. This is where the missing piece comes in with Kenjon Barner; this is where the Panthers running game can become perfect and an unstoppable force that no NFL defense can prepare for. If the new offensive coordinator Mike Shula can channel some of his father’s wisdom and use these four correctly along with the running threat Cam Newton possess we may be looking at the best rushing team in the league. As I said before I believe that this Panthers stable of running back can become a Four-Headed
Dragon that wreaks havoc on NFL defenses.