Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
Change-of-pace running backs are specialty runners in the NFL. The idea is to find a running back that's nothing like your starter. Bring in your backup after the starter wears them out and watch the faster, smaller guy run circles around defenders. This could be a bigger ball-carrier than your starter also, but in the Bengals case, they may be looking for a home run threat to pair with BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
1. Kenjon Barner - 5'10" 188 lbs - Oregon
Strengths: Barner is an elusive scat-back that makes a living outrunning slower defenders and making the fast ones miss. His best attribute is his ability to control his speed. Barner knows when to be patient, cutback against the grain, string out a defense or plant his foot and go full speed. Barner shows decent hands and flashes power and balance when absorbing head-on hits. I think he can be a very good change of pace back and even play some slot receiver.
Weaknesses: Barner doesn't have the bulk-strength to be more than a situational runner. Because he's smaller, Barner looks to head out of bounds as if it's the front porch in a neighborhood game of hide and seek. With that size usually comes NFL durability and ball-security concerns. Barner has fumbled the football 1/50 touches. I also didn't get to see Barner much in pass protection in any of the games I studied.
Size/Style Comparison: Dexter McCluster
Draft Projection: 4th Round
2. Mike Gillislee - 5'11" 210 lbs - Florida
Notes: Gillislee looks thinner than he's listed. He runs smaller also. He has good straight-line speed and hits the hole hard. I didn't see lateral agility or change-of-direction (COD) ability that a back with his size should have. Gillislee isn't a very creative runner in space and usually just barrels into the defender. He's a solid pass protector but with very little experience as a pass receiver. It's a positive that he's had only one season of carrying the load in college. He has fumbled about once every 97-carries. He has some considerable upside and good speed, but I didn't see a single special trait that would make me target Gillislee in this draft.
Size/Style Comparison: Mike Goodson
Draft Projection: 5th/6th Round
3. Kerwynn Williams - 5'9" 185 lbs - Utah State - 6th/7th Round
Notes: Williams is a speedy back with a knack for the big play. He broke a long touchdown in every game I watched. As a late-round prospect, Williams at least offers a sought after trait, even if he's smaller.
4. Jawan Jamison - 5'8" 200 lbs - Rutgers 7th/UDFA
Notes: Jamison didn't show his best traits enough. He's not as fast as he flashes and doesn't make defender miss nearly enough in the games I watched. His quickness is a trait teams could covet late in the draft.
5. Roy Finch - 5'8" 175 lbs - Oklahoma - 7th/UDFA
Notes: Finch is super quick, explosive and elusive. Defenders have a hard time even getting a hand on him. He's small, and may be able to be an NFL slot receiver. The strange thing about Finch is he barely played in 2012, but it doesn't seem injury related.
6. Robbie Rouse - 5'9" 190 - Fresno State - 7th/UDFA
Notes: Rouse looks better than he is. He flashes speed, agility and acceleration, but he can't control it at all. He's usually tripping over his feet or running into his blocker's backs. I have to think there's some upside here.