It never hurts to have speed at the cornerback position. Speed helps players recover, and when they’re in phase, it allows them to stick to receivers and negate potential options downfield. Baylor CB Kalon Barnes has this ability, and that’s why his NFL Draft scouting report demands attention. Just how exciting is his profile, and where does he project at the next level?
Kalon Barnes NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Baylor
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 5’11 1/4″
- Weight: 183 pounds
- Wingspan: 76 3/8″
- Length: 31 3/4″
- Hand: 9 5/8″
Kalon Barnes Scouting Report
“Speed. I am speed.” You think this is a quote from Disney Pixar’s film “Cars,” featuring anthropomorphic vehicles, Owen Wilson, and Larry the Cable Guy. But actually, it’s just Barnes talking to himself in the mirror each morning. When it’s all said and done, Barnes could be one of the fastest players in the entire 2022 NFL Draft. And that speed shows up early and often on tape.
Kalon Barnes’ athletic profile
Measuring in around 5’11”, 183 pounds at the East-West Shrine Game, Barnes is a twitchy mover who has great explosiveness out of his direction changes. He accelerates quickly with brisk, energetic strides. His high-end acceleration lends him plenty of appeal, but he also maxes out as one of the fastest players on the field.
Barnes has high-level closing speed when breaking back toward the ball. With his elite speed, he erases gaps in zone and takes receivers by surprise. The Baylor CB can blanket receivers and keep the lid closed in press bail coverage, and with his pure speed, can recover lost ground incredibly quickly when trailing receivers. Heading downfield, he easily sticks to receivers with his speed.
Beyond his speed and explosiveness, Barnes is fairly fluid turning his hips and accelerating upfield. He has the capacity to lower in his stance and sink his hips. Moreover, the Baylor CB has shown to stack quick direction changes and use his twitch to keep leverage.
Execution beyond the physical traits
The prime selling point with Barnes is his abnormal speed. There’s still some room for refinement, but his experience in Dave Aranda’s defense helped to strengthen his execution in some areas.
While Barnes’ press technique can be sloppy at times, he has shown to match receivers off the line with his base and actively adjusts his hip leverage. Barnes flashes patience at the line and can change his tempo based on receiver movements. He’s not over-zealous but remains reactive and disciplined more often than not. And if he makes mistakes, his sheer speed allows him insane recovery capacity.
In zone coverage, Barnes’ skill set has some appeal as well. The Baylor CB flashes the awareness to identify routes and manage space in zone. With his explosiveness, he can launch toward the ball and attack it in the air. Covering downfield, he’s fairly solid at getting his head back around and identifying the ball. Furthermore, Barnes — a former wide receiver — has displayed the ability to track the ball and coordinate his hands. He also has above-average length, which he uses to disrupt.
Among other things, Barnes’ speed gives him utility in run defense as well. He can force running backs out of bounds by sealing off the boundary.
Areas for improvement
Barnes has great upside, but he’s not quite a polished product yet. Particularly in press man, the Baylor CB can be streaky. He sometimes staggers his feet and gets flat-footed when transitioning.
Moreover, he can be easily baited into over-setting by quick lateral moves at the line. He doesn’t always stay in phase and can lose his balance. Additionally, when Barnes has to jam or recover, he can be grabby with his hands.
Going further, Barnes doesn’t always get low enough in his stance and can be late to react to in-breaking routes. The Baylor CB needs to do a better job anticipating, and when he’s too high in his stance can be a bit choppy when changing directions. He easily bites when tracking receivers downfield and has some trouble decelerating from his top speed.
Barnes can also improve in zone coverage. He can sometimes be indecisive with his positioning and doesn’t always pick up wideouts. Additionally, there are times when he’ll lose track of receivers in his blind spot. Among other things, Barnes has a lighter frame and can struggle to get off blocks in run defense. He can also play stronger at the catch point.
Kalon Barnes’ 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
There’s one thing that makes Barnes an incredibly unique NFL Draft prospect: Speed. The Baylor CB has loads of it and can match just about any receiver with that speed. He sticks to pass catchers downfield and provides blanket coverage. When he makes mistakes, Barnes can recover with uncommon quickness. His potential 4.2 speed alone cleans up a lot of his mistakes on tape, and it could help him get by early on in the NFL.
That said, while Barnes’ speed is valuable, he does need to clean up his game in both man and zone coverages. While he flashes awareness, Barnes could be a bit more consistent in zone. And while he flashes the ability to match receivers and stack direction changes in press man, his technique can be volatile from rep to rep. Barnes can fade back too far, over-set, and lose his balance. His feet can also be frantic at times, and he needs to be more composed.
Nevertheless, if Barnes can refine his game, he could be a dynamic playmaker for an NFL defense, with some scheme versatility. While he’s not an overwhelming size threat, he does have above-average length. He’s fluid enough to transition his hips, and his elite explosiveness and closing speed serve as defining traits.
Barnes will also need to get stronger, but he has a ton of upside as an eventual starter. In zone schemes, his closing speed could be lethal. Meanwhile, in man, he has the twitch, foot speed, and recovery athleticism to be a sticky coverage defender.
Barnes’ Player Profile
When in doubt, bet on track stars. Track speed is hard to replicate, and Barnes has it. Back in high school, he was a two-time Texas state champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dash. He set a state record in the 100-meter dash, with a time of 10.22 seconds. He’s also been reported to run it as fast as a freakish 10.03. Can you say “ca-chow?”
Barnes used his inhuman speed to excel on the football field. He played wide receiver and cornerback in high school, putting up productive stats on both sides of the ball. As a senior, he amassed 600 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns as a receiver while also tacking on 4 interceptions on defense. If that wasn’t enough, he also took 4 returns to the house.
Predictably, Barnes had interest on the recruiting trail. A four-star recruit, Barnes had offers from schools like Georgia, TCU, and Texas A&M. But an opportunity to play at Baylor was most enticing for the future CB.
Barnes’ career at Baylor
Barnes originally arrived at Baylor as a wide receiver, but he quickly made the full-time transition to cornerback. He logged his first start in October 2018 against Kansas State and earned his first career pass deflection in that outing. That game would be a precursor of Barnes’ long, productive career as a Baylor CB.
Barnes came back as a sophomore in 2019 and played in all 14 games. Over that span, he put up 23 tackles, a half-tackle for loss, an interception, 5 deflections, and a forced fumble. He carried over that production in a strong 2020 campaign, accumulating 13 tackles, a pick, and 3 pass breakups in six games.
2021 was another strong year for Barnes. The Baylor CB reprised his role on the boundary and put up 23 more tackles, another interception, and 5 additional pass breakups.
In total for his career, Barnes logged 3 picks and 14 deflections. His play in 2021, in particular, was good enough to earn him an invite to the East-West Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas, where he’d show off his upside against fellow NFL Draft prospects.
Barnes’ NFL Draft ascension
Testing will boost Barnes’ stock a considerable amount. The Baylor CB still has some things to clean up mechanically, even after being a multi-year starter. There’s also some room for him to get stronger and add weight to his frame. Nevertheless, Barnes’ legitimately game-breaking speed is a huge asset for him at cornerback, and he also flashes natural ball skills as a former WR.
Barnes may not be ready to start right away, but he has the high-upside traits to warrant an investment in the middle rounds. And with his speed, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that someone takes a chance on him in the top 100. If they can further refine his game, the returns would be worth it.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Kalon Barnes
Positives: Explosive athlete with incredible speed. Tough, plays while injured, and does a solid job reading as well as diagnosing. Works to get his head back around in deep coverage, tracks the pass in the air, and easily runs step for step with opponents everywhere on the field. Mixes it up with receivers, gives effort defending the run, and tackles well in the open field. Plays to his 40 time and easily recovers.
Negatives: Struggles staying on the receiver’s hip out of breaks. Falls asleep on occasion. Unpolished and relies on speed rather than proper technique to make plays.
Analysis: Barnes flashed ability throughout his Baylor career and went on to run incredibly fast during Combine workouts. He possesses next-level size as well as athleticism. However, to date, Barnes is a developmental prospect who may never be anything more than a dime back on Sundays.