Heading into training camp, much of the talk for the Carolina Panthers at running back has centered around which of the team’s last two sixth-round picks will emerge as a viable option alongside veterans DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Of course, now rookie Tyler Gaffney is a member of the New England Patriots after being claimed off of waivers when Carolina put him on injured reserve. With that being the case, there’s added pressure on second-year man Kenjon Barner to be good sooner rather than later.
2013 Stats: 6 rushes, 7 yards, 0 touchdowns.
2013 Review: Barner really only played special teams last year, with limited carries in less than opportune spots. He looked good in the preseason, and the hope is he can keep improving and be ready to step in should DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart falter.
What He Needs To Work On: Barner has a chance to be a really good back. He was a lightweight last year at 181 lbs. but after gaining weight in the offseason, Barner’s got good size at 5’9″, 196 pounds. He’s now just stocky enough to be durable and height really doesn’t matter for backs. According to National Football Post, Barner’s scouting combine numbers indicate he is just barely in the top half of speed when it comes to running backs, but he is in the top 30% when it comes to acceleration drills. To be honest, I think Gaffney was a bit of a better project for the Panthers, but that opportunity is now gone so Barner will get a chance this year. Because I think the team will have a hard time passing the ball this year, Barner will get more reps than most teams third string running backs. His impact, however, may be most felt in the return game as he will also be fighting to replace Ted Ginn Jr. as the primary kick returner.
2014 Prediction: 55 carries, 200 yards, 3.6 yards per carry