With his speed, quickness, and elusiveness he is a great space player and when he gets in the open field there is an excellent chance that he will take it the distance. His problem is he is not a great inside runner. Too often he dances around trying to make the big play rather than taking what’s there. When that happens he often gets hit for a loss or no gain when he very well could have had a 2-3 yard gain if he took what was there.
Once he gets to the NFL he can’t do that as holes in the pro game aren’t anywhere near as big as holes in college. His after-contact ability in tight spaces is just average and he cannot move the pile.
As a receiver, Barkley is as good as it gets. He can line up split out or in the slot and get open versus man coverage. He is quick in and out of cuts and can get separation. Barkley adjusts to the ball very well and has very good hands. After the catch he is dangerous and is capable of turning a short completion into a long gain. As a kickoff returner, he is similar in that he has the capability of taking it to the house with his top open field run skills.
While I don’t compare Barkley to players like Elliott or Fournette, he is much more like Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey. Both have a skill set that allows them to be used as a running back, a receiver and a returner. Some will argue that Barkley is much bigger. That is true, but he doesn’t play bigger. As I said above, Barkley plays much smaller than his measured size. If you look at the college numbers of both McCaffrey and Barkley, McCaffrey was more productive and physical as a pure runner even though he is 20-25 pounds smaller.
In McCaffrey’s final two seasons at Stanford he ran for 2,019 and 1,603 yards. The 1,600-yard season came in 2016 when he was hampered by an ankle injury. His average per carry in those seasons was 7.1 and 6.0. As a receiver, McCaffrey had 45 and 37 receptions his final two years. It should be noted that McCaffrey's numbers in 2016 were for just 10.5 games as he missed a game-and-a-half with the ankle injury and did not play in Stanford’s bowl game.
In the past two seasons, Barkley ran for 1,499 yards in 2016 and to date this year he has 899 yards. His average per carry was 5.5 and 5.4 yards. He caught 28 balls in 2016 and has 40 catches to date this year. Barkley averages about 14 yards per catch over the past two seasons. McCaffrey averaged 14.3 yards per catch in ’15 but was only 8.1 a year ago.