From now until the 2019 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#34 Alex Barnes/RB/Kansas State/6’0”, 226 Lbs
– Ideal frame and weight distribution for the position
– Physical, downhill runner that gets better as the game goes on
– Above average vision and sees cutback lanes before they develop
– Underappreciated athlete with light, soft feet and sneaky-good elusiveness
– Made major strides from junior to senior year
– Good hands for the position and can shake guys early after the catch
– Workhorse back that Kansas State leaned on with inexperienced QB play
– Runs with a high pad level at times
– Inconsistent pass protector that appears uncertain in his sets
– Lacks home run speed and needs a bit of a runway to get going
– Not very dynamic in terms of explosiveness on film
– Struggles to create for himself when blocking breaks down
– Finished his career ranked second in yards per carry (5.71) and 100-yard rushing games (12), fourth in yards (2,616) and yards per game (112.9), and ninth in rushing touchdowns (25) at Kansas State
– Lead the Big 12 in rushing in 2018, finishing with 1,355 yards and 12 touchdowns on 256 carries. Became the first Wildcat to lead the conference in rushing since Daniel Thomas in 2010
– Named First Team All-Big 12 in 2018
– Played in 36 career games in three seasons after being redshirted freshman year
– Finished three-year career with 2,616 yards and 25 touchdowns on 458 carries, adding 25 career receptions for 223 yards
– Lead all running backs at the NFL Scouting Combine with 34 reps on the bench at 225 pounds, and ran a 4.59 40-yard dash
Quietly, Kansas State running back Alex Barnes had one of the best seasons in the country for Power 5 running backs in Bill Snyder’s final year at the helm of the historic Wildcats program.
Despite putting up monster numbers, Barnes flew under the radar until he blew up at the NFL Scouting Combine, namely on the bench, putting up a position-leading 34 reps of 225 pounds, which also happened to be more than some offensive and defensive linemen.
Now, that’s not to say Barnes will be an automatic success because of what he did on a meaningless bench exercise, but what it tells us is that he’s a powerful running back, and that stood out on film almost immediately.
Against Texas in Manhattan, KS last season, Barnes ran with punishment on his mind, dishing out body blows left and right to Longhorns defenders.
Texas safety Brandon Jones found out the hard way that going low on Barnes doesn’t work, especially against his well-proportioned frame with thick, powerful legs.
Mississippi State also found out the hard way that Barnes is a load.
Barnes isn’t just a power back though. No, he’s not a home run threat, but I love Barnes’ feet and his ability to shift around with ease without losing any speed.
The Cactus Bowl against UCLA at the end of the 2017 season was a glimpse into what Barnes would become in 2018.
Watch the feet in the hole here by Barnes. He glides over the field, shifting his weight from left to right, allowing him to burst through the hole for the splash run.
As I said in the negative marks against him, Barnes does need a runway to get going in space, and you can see that here, but man, the footwork is impressive.
Throughout the 2018 season there seemed to be a lot of talk within Big 12 fan circles that Barnes simply wasn’t elusive and seemed to be playing in the wrong era of football. I didn’t come away feeling that way about the KSU back.
He’s underrated as an athlete and has some shiftiness to his game.
That Oklahoma State safety needs to pick up his jockstrap because it’s lying in the middle of the field. One thing is for sure: Barnes’ cuts are explosive and his running style catches defenders off guard because he sort of rocks defenses to sleep with his lumbering style.
Playing at KSU, Barnes wasn’t asked to be much of a pass-catching threat, but he has good hands and made some impressive catches last season, including this one against Oklahoma State before taking a big shot.
That’s a one-hand stab of the football, all while securing the catch and absorbing the big blow in the open field. Give me this guy on my team every day of the week, and twice on Sundays.
Yes, he’s an old-school style back with his running style and overall skill set, but he’s a durable running back that can serve as a change-of-pace back in 2019 and beyond for an offense that wants to run multiple systems. Personally, I would want him as my No. 2 behind a game-breaking running back, allowing me to put Barnes into the game in the second half to wear out defenses and salt away wins.
Games Watched: UCLA (2017), Mississippi State (2018), Iowa State (2018), Oklahoma State (2018), Texas (2018), West Virginia (2018)
Projection: Mid Day 3