Paul Hudrick: Pro-Barnett
Derek Barnett is a damn good football player.
He broke Tennessee's all-time sack record set by some guy named Reggie White. He's a smart player with strong, violent hands and a nonstop motor. He's not an athletic freak like No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett, but he plays with excellent anticipation and football sense. He's also a strong run defender.
And now, he's an Eagle.
The Eagles took Barnett on Thursday with the 14th overall pick (see story). They passed on a couple elite prospects to select him. While on the surface Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen or linebacker Reuben Foster might seem like the better selection, evaluations are not black and white.
Jim Schwartz's defense is predicated on getting pressure on the quarterback with his front four. Barnett increases the chances that said rush gets to the quarterback. Lining up out wide will also allow Barnett to use his outstanding natural bend to get around tackles.
Barnett, just 20 years old, is a great fit for the Eagles. He'll have the chance to earn playing time right away in a rotation with Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and newcomer Chris Long.
In a piece he penned for the Players' Tribune, Barnett wrote the following:
Achieving that sack record definitely meant a lot to me, but I would have traded it away in a heartbeat to have won a championship while I was in college. So understand that even though I've achieved some noteworthy things and won some individual awards, they are not what drives me.
I want to lead a defense. I want to be an important part of a winning team.
I want to win a Super Bowl.
He's not a workout warrior. He's a football player.
Jared Sherman: Anti-Barnett
Once again, the Eagles are wooed by sack totals. Barnett certainly put them up (33 total in three seasons), but I'm not confident he can translate what he did at Tennessee to the pros. Barnett relied heavily on timing snap counts, something seasoned QBs in the NFL will prey on. And as far as pass rushing moves, I didn't see any. A sprint up the field past overmatched OTs and some decent bend was the preferred method for Barnett. I didn't see any sort of counter-move when he couldn't win off the snap, and he isn't a good enough athlete to make up for his lack of repertoire.
The Eagles reached here. They reached for a need rather than picking the best available player(s) on the board. For me, there were multiple players left that I thought could be stars in the NFL. Ohio State S Malik Hooker, Alabama LB Reuben Foster, and Alabama TE O.J. Howard have star potential. Do any of them play a position of glaring need in Philadelphia? No, but great teams collect great players regardless of positional need. And it's not like the Birds have oodles of studs littering their roster to the point where drafting for need over best available makes sense.
I wrote in my draft-day manifesto that Barnett was worthy of a first-round pick, but just not as high as No. 14 (I also compared him to Brandon Graham without the burst). I hope I'm wrong on both counts.