If you’re looking for a productive pass rusher with an extended résumé, look no further than Derek Barnett. The former Tennessee Volunteer broke the program sack record, previously held by the legendary Reggie White. Barnett finished his career with 33 sacks and 52 tackles for loss, doing so on college football’s biggest platform coming out of the SEC.
The Nashville, Tennessee native and former 4-star recruit elected to stay home and attend the University of Tennessee despite holding offers from other prestigious programs such as Florida State, LSU and Ohio State, among others. Barnett’s choice proved to pay dividends as he is now set to be a 1st round draft pick come April.
When you think of SEC pass rushers, Myles Garrett and likely #1 overall pick is the name that comes to mind, but Barnett isn’t too far behind, and some even consider the two to be on the same level. That is, if you value the box score more than the actual film. However, Barnett is a very good prospect in his own right and brings a lot of skill to the table.
Here’s an area where Derek Barnett is better than Myles Garrett:
Hand use. DB is really, really good at hand-fighting. High-motor dude
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 26, 2017
Name: Derek Barnett
Comparison: Cliff Avril (Seattle Seahawks)
Draft Grade: 1st Round
Positives: Explosive first step and displays on-point timing. Beats linemen with combination of speed and power off the edge. Quick outside rush and natural shoulder lean. Shows good bend. Tremendous upper body strength. Huge, bulky arms. Full arsenal in his pass rushing repertoire. Swift rip move. Powerful swim move. Can win with bull rush. Uses efficient spin move when necessary. Heavy load in pursuit and impacts ball carriers with force. Delivers hard blows on the QB. Seemingly absorbs his opponent’s body. Physical engagement with offensive linemen. Powerful mitts. Decent run defender. Whips inside well. Wide tackle radius and closing range. Adjusts well to cut blocks and doesn’t let them impede his path into the backfield. Reliable player who usually wins his battles throughout the course of a game. Extremely productive college career.
Negatives: Sluggish footwork and lateral movement. Short area quickness is mediocre. Struggles to make tackles out in space. Usually allows ball carriers to beat him in one-on-one opportunities – fails to adjust to jukes and cutbacks. Hesitant to attack the ball carrier in open field. Sometimes backs up off the line and won’t engage in the play. Knocked down on occasion. Liability to get caught offsides with his early jump. Struggles against QBs with running ability.
Outlook: When I looked over Derek Barnett this past offseason, I didn’t come away impressed at all and was left to wonder how he posted such staggering production. His technique and hand usage I thought demanded a lot of tweaking. I went back the past couple days and watched his 2016 film in order to get a more accurate evaluation. It was apparent Barnett made vast improvement this season on the field, and he wound up posting career highs in sacks and QB hurries. With his combination of power, strength and explosive first step, Barnett has all the makings to be a longtime starter at the next level. He’s an all-around solid football player with no major blemishes to his game. Barnett’s best fit in the NFL serves as a 4-3 base defensive end. He’ll put up a consistent 6-8 sacks each year and reminds me a lot of Cliff Avril.