Rookie Scouting Report: Running Back Alex Barnes
Alex Barnes, Kansas State
Weight: 226 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.59 seconds
Vertical Jump: 38.5 inches
Broad Jump: 126 inches
3-Cone Drill: 6.95 seconds
He wasn’t talked about very much in the mainstream media before the NFL Combine, but after posting top-five numbers in the vertical, broad jump, 3-Cone drill, and 20-yard shuttle, many started to take notice. His 4.59-second 40-yard dash won’t wow you and was likely worse than expected, but he was much better athletically in every other test than most thought he would be.
While at Kansas State, Barnes didn’t become a workhorse until 2018, his junior season. It’s worth noting that while his workload increased every year, his yards per carry diminished. While toting the ball 256 times for 1,355 yards and 12 touchdowns was solid, it was good to see him flash the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, as he had just five receptions on his college resume prior to 2018 when he caught 20 passes for 194 yards.
Vision/Awareness: 1.5 out of 5 stars
He’s slow to get to the line of scrimmage for a perceived power back. Some may call it patience, but you rarely see him get downhill immediately, something you continually see with fellow prospect Damien Harris. His processing speed isn’t quick enough to anticipate when a hole is going to open, but rather wait until it does and then try to hit it, though his speed doesn’t allow him to hit them fast enough. Once he gets into the open field and is moving downhill, he’s fully aware of where defenders are and how to maneuver his way through them pretty well, but that’s not going to be the case 90 percent of the time. His vision is not a plus for a player with his skillset.
Elusiveness (twitch, juke, tackle-breaking): 4.0 out of 5 stars
He’s got a good bit of wiggle for a bigger running back and is somewhat elusive in the open field when he makes subtle cuts you wouldn’t expect out of a 226-pounder. He’s somewhat easy to tackle in the backfield before he gets moving, but once he does get beyond the line of scrimmage, it gets much harder to bring him down. When he lowers his shoulder, he can straight-up run over defenders and keep moving, showcasing elite balance when heading into contact. He’s going to have to break tackles in order to gain yardage in the NFL, so it’s a good thing he’s strong. He’s not a high twitch running back, but he’s got just enough in the open field to make some defenders miss. His elusiveness is the reason he may be drafted.
Speed: 1.5 out of 5 stars
He lacks any sort of speed and doesn’t even have much ramped-up speed, either. There is no burst out of the hole, but rather a timid approach to the line of scrimmage that appears like he’s moving in slow motion. This is the most limiting part of his game in my opinion, because he’s not a downhill runner. If you approach the line of scrimmage with the lack of urgency he does, you’d better have elite burst to get up the field. He doesn’t have it. One of the biggest takeaways you’ll have after watching Barnes is that he’s going to have trouble outrunning NFL talent.
Pass-catching/Pass Protection: 2.0 out of 5 stars
He knows how to leverage his body very well and it shows in pass-protection. The issue is that it won’t matter much because the offense becomes a bit predictable with him on the field for third-down. He’s not someone who’ll be out there running routes, but rather a last-ditch check-down option for the quarterback. He doesn’t have bricks for hands, but he’s not quick or fast enough to gain separation from linebackers or safeties. He’s not going to be someone who’s utilized in the passing game very much.
Versatility: 2.0 out of 5 stars
He’s not a versatile player who’ll fit in every offense. He’s likely going to make for a decent backup in the NFL or one you could use to help wear down a defense. Knowing he lacks receiving skills and/or speed to gain separation, he creates a lot of predictability when he’s on the field. Defenses know what he is and that’s never a good thing for versatility.
He reminds me quite a bit of Josh Adams, who went undrafted in 2018, only to make an impact on the Eagles when injuries started to pile up. Adams is a bit more of a downhill runner while Barnes is a bit more elusive. Both are quite sluggish out of the gate but are slightly above average once they hit the open field. Adams went undrafted in what was a deeper running back class, though he’s probably the prospect I’d prefer of the two. Both are bigger guys who are tough to bring down, but one of them hits the hole with a bit more urgency.