Peyton Barber, a redshirt sophomore from Auburn, has as good a reason as any to enter this year's draft earlier than some may have anticipated. "My mom, right now she's homeless," he told reporters at the combine in February. So after just a single campaign as Auburn's featured back Barber will be on the board for NFL teams to consider later this month. In his only year as the Tigers' lead back Barber registered 237 carries for 1,016 rush yards and 13 touchdowns, adding 11 receptions for 112 yards. He's got a stocky build at 5-foot-10, 228 pounds and has displayed attributes that could translate to success in the NFL and in fantasy. But the young runner is not without his faults either. Let's see if the good outweighs the bad and if Barber has what it takes to make an impact in fantasy.
» Quickness plus excellent lateral foot control
» Deceptive before hitting the hole
» Aggressive at the line even when creases are small
» Plays to the whistle and shows maximum effort on blocking assignments
Barber isn't the fastest back on the board, clocking a 40-yard dash time of 4.64 at the combine, which he improved upon (4.59) at Auburn's pro day in early March. To counter his average top speed, Barber showcases excellent lateral quickness for a back of his stature and amazing short-yardage burst as evidenced by his top performances in both the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle drills.
Barber also displays extremely controlled footwork as he reads the defense before arriving at the line of scrimmage. This may look like he's indecisive or being overly patient, but the guy knows what he's doing. His fancy footwork is just enough to deceive defenders into overcompensating and creating space to burst through. When the creases at the line are minuscule, Barber takes the best option and hits the hole with conviction and power even if it's for a minimal gain.
He's a great between-the-tackles runner who makes the most of what the defense gives him. He gets downhill quickly which leads to consistent gains, earning tough yardage and he gets a few extra points for his gritty running style.
» Lacks top shelf speed
» Tends to overextend when assigned to block
» Only one season of experience as college starter
» Was not asked to do much as a receiver
Plain and simple, Barber is not the fastest running back of the incoming class. But lightning speed isn't necessary to be a valuable runner in the NFL or in fantasy, although it can help in terms of special teams participation if a back is competing for a roster spot.
When assigned to block, there were some situations where he overextended himself when reaching for a defender, which put him off balance and lead to ineffectiveness, especially when pass protecting. Barber was asked to be a lead blocker frequently on sweeps as well, and while he may not do much of that in the NFL, it is still something that he could improve upon.
With just a single season under his belt in a significant role out of the backfield, Barber could use some more polish before he is ready to carry an NFL workload. And since he has only 11 receptions to his name during his short college career his versatility as a pass-catcher is in question. But that's what third-down backs are for, right?
Ideal fantasy fits
Alfred Morris signed with Dallas, leaving second year back Matt Jones as the lead runner in Washington. The team could use some depth behind Jones who had mixed results in his rookie season. Barber has already been compared to Morris, which makes sense considering his size and running style. Obviously if Barber ended up in Minnesota, he'd have to wait for Adrian Peterson to move on in order to have a fantasy impact. But Barber could use some time to develop and who better to learn from than one of the best to ever play the game? He'd also be a fine complement to Duke Johnson in Cleveland but would only really be an asset in fantasy if Isaiah Crowell was out of the picture. And as for the Eagles, Ryan Mathews is capable of being a bell cow but has a poor record of durability and Darren Sproles' change-of-pace role is just that. Barber could fit in nicely in Philadelphia, but we'd again be dealing with a dreaded three-headed monster of a committee.
Early fantasy draft projection
Barber has proven that he runs tough, runs smart and puts maximum effort into every play even when he is not the ball carrier. Because of his lack of experience he will fall to the later rounds of the draft as is the case with most of the secondary tier of backs in this class. For fantasy owners, there is probably no reason to be clamoring for Barber in a redraft league until later rounds unless he lands in an ideal situation and projects to be a high volume early-down back (something we won't know until later this summer). His ability to consistently chew up yardage on early downs is likely where his fantasy production will come from. So keep an eye on this guy, because with a little bit of experience and a touch of refinement he could pay huge dividends down the line and will likely come as a steal in drafts -- both for real football and fantasy purposes.