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Jan 19, 2016 01:28 PM EST

Peyton Barber NFL Decision a Surprise, But it Makes Sense

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One of the biggest surprises of the college football season, Auburn running back Peyton Barber provided the NFL Draft with its biggest surprise to this point.

As a freshman, Barber had just 10 carries and came into this past season as the third string running back. But after Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson went down with injuries, Auburn turned to Barber, Yahoo Sports reported.

In five of his first seven games he ran for more than 100 yards, totaling 1,017 on the season. 12 of his 13 rushing touchdowns came in those first seven games as well. He announced his decision with a letter posted to his Instagram account that he also submitted to AL.com:

"I have decided to forego my eligibility at Auburn and enter the 2016 NFL Draft. This was a very tough decision for many reasons but after my family and I prayed about it, I know I am ready for the next step and that this is the best decision for me. Auburn is a special place and having the opportunity to play football at Auburn has been a dream come true. I am close to graduating, so I will continue to work towards my degree even as I pursue my dream to play in the NFL. I would like to thank all of my coaches and all of the support staff at Auburn, especially Coach (Gus) Malzahn, Coach (Rhett) Lashlee and Coach (Tim) Horton. Thank you to all of my teammates as well. Lastly, thank you to the best fans in the world! I will always be an Auburn Tiger. War Eagle!"

ESPN's draft experts, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, did not rank Barber among their best available running backs. Like many analysts, neither expected Barber to declare for the draft, so it is unclear where he could be selected.

As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee pointed out, the level of competition at his position he would face next year likely influenced his decision. Next year's running back draft class could include the likes of Christian McCaffrey, Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, and Nick Chubb.

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