The Carolina Panthers did not need a running back, but they decided to take advantage of value on the board and add a dynamic, change-of-pace runner in the sixth round by selecting Oregon's Kenjon Barner with the No. 182 overall selection.
Barner is an explosive athlete who has high upside as a situational, third-down scatback at the next level. He is quicker than he is fast, but he consistently makes sharp, smooth cuts in the open field and can make defenders miss.
Barner is a small back who is very limited as a between-the-tackles runner and pass-protector, which makes him a situational runner only and possibly a kickoff returner in the NFL. Nonetheless, he can make plays on the perimeter and is a very good receiving back out of the backfield who runs quick routes and catches the ball consistently.
Barner could have a difficult time finding consistent touches in a backfield that already includes DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
If he can catch on as a receiver out of the backfield and as a kickoff returner, Barner could make some big plays and score some fantasy points. However, he is unlikely to be a consistent source of fantasy offense unless Williams and Stewart are beset by injuries, so he is unlikely to be worth a draft choice.
Barner should have a good shot at earning the No. 3 spot on the Panthers' running back depth chart as a situational speed back and receiver out of the backfield, as he has a skill set that neither Armond Smith nor Tauren Poole has. He will have to compete with Stewart, Williams and fullback Mike Tolbert for touches, so he will have a tough time getting carries as a rookie.
He could see time as a kickoff returner, although the Panthers' free-agent signing of Ted Ginn this offseason will limit his special teams opportunities as well.
The Panthers did not need another running back, but Barner does bring a unique skill set for his abilities to make defenders miss and to catch passes out of the backfield. He may not play much as a rookie, but he has good upside and was a good value as a sixth-round pick.
If Barner can cut out a role in the offense, which he should be able to do in certain packages, this will have been a very solid choice for the Panthers in Round 6.
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