By Anna Glenn Grove
With a stellar final season at Kansas State and a good showing at the NFL Combine, it was a surprise to many when Alex Barnes was left waiting for a team to call home at the end of the 2019 NFL Draft. Two of his teammates, Dalton Risner and Duke Shelley, from Kansas State were picked up in the draft in rounds two and six, respectively.
Barnes declared for the draft a year early and finished his final season at Kansas State playing all 12 games with 1,355 total rush yards and 12 touchdowns. In the combine, Barnes had an impressive showing being named a “diamond in the rough” with a vertical jump of 38.5 inches. His 40-yard dash was the only real point of concern sitting at a time of 4.59. Barnes tied for fourth in bench press reps with 34. He was rated as the strongest of all running backs in the draft following the combine.
Barnes has now landed in Nashville as an undrafted free agent and will get the chance to prove himself and potentially earn a spot on the Titans roster. Barnes actually interviewed with the Tennessee Titans at the combine and was invited to private dinners and meetings with the team.
At practice, Barnes said at this point all his eggs are in one basket, his goal is to make it onto this Nashville team. He has been gaining some reps and touches at OTAs mainly working with Logan Woodside and the other running backs. He was also practicing some with special teams.
This is a guy to keep on your radar to challenge the roster for a running back spot. This could potentially put him third behind both Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry. Some of the draws towards Barnes are that he is young and would not be as expensive as a more experienced player.
As a running back, Barnes can fit into many different roles. Kansas State didn’t focus their offense around him yet he was still an explosive presence. This earned him the Big 12 Rushing Title in his final season there. Barnes argues that backs do not always have to be niche and he is an example of this. Barnes has a strong ability to block for quarterback runs which could be a nice compliment to Marcus Mariota.
For a boy who grew up in Pittsburgh, Kansas, attending Titans practices were not actually his first time in Music City. In 2017 and entering his second starting season, Barnes and the Kansas State Wildcats traveled to Nashville for a game against Vanderbilt. During that game in September, Barnes had eight carries for 34 yards.
Barnes will compete hard and could be a nice addition to this Tennessee team. His work ethic comes from his grandfather and military veteran who played a father-figure role in Barnes’ life. He will most likely end up playing special teams especially when Henry needs a break.
“Being undrafted is definitely something that was a bit of a surprise but it’s my reality now so I’m working with it as best as I can,” Barnes said. “I am coming and grinding each and every day trying to show myself and prove myself to these coaches that I do belong.”