The Eagles nabbed one of the best pass-rushers in the draft on Thursday night.
Using the 14th overall pick, the Eagles took defensive end Derek Barnett out of Tennessee. While some other top players were still available at 14 — Jonathan Allen, Malik Hooker and O.J. Howard, to name a few — the Eagles claimed Barnett was the top player on their board.
"We were really excited to get Derek," Eagles VP of football operations Howie Roseman said. "Highest rated guy on our board. Player thoughout the process we had done a lot of work on, (VP of player personnel) Joe (Douglas) and his staff. We're always going to build along the lines, but at the same time, we want to stay true to our board and take the highest rated guys that Joe and his staff put together. He fits the scheme, he fits the culture we're trying to build. I think we have a tremendous player and a tremendous person."
Barnett, 20, picked up 33 sacks during his time at Tennessee and showed he can consistently get to the quarterback, something the Eagles need desperately.
In 2016, the Eagles' entire defense was supposed to be predicated on getting to the quarterback without blitzing, but the front four had trouble. Now, two starters from a year ago — Connor Barwin and Bennie Logan — have moved on. Barnett, even if he doesn't start right away, will be thrown into the mix early (see pros/cons).
"I think I'm a relentless ball player," the 6-foot-3, 259-pound Barnett said on Wednesday. "I don't give up on plays. I think I'm pretty consistent, too. I know how to get to the quarterback. Also, I can help the run there."
Barnett visited with the Eagles during the pre-draft process and said the team compared him to Terrell Suggs. Douglas said that comparision was because neither player tested well during the pre-draft process, but had impressive college careers.
The thing that stands out about Barnett is his hands. They're elite and they're what allow him to be such a dynamic pass-rusher. Barnett said hand work is something his coaches at Tennessee harped on.
"What Derek is highly proficient at is at the top of his rush," Douglas said. "So when the D-lineman gets to the top, he is excellent. Excellent ankle flexion, excellent ability to bend at the top and finish. He can close. And he uses a variety of moves. He uses the speed rush. He can use power. He can go speed to power on people. So you're getting a guy that knows how to finish when he gets to the top of a rush."
While at Tennessee, Barnett actually broke Reggie White's school sack record. Now, he's following his legacy to Philadelphia.
"Yeah, it's just very ironic and it's crazy how everything plays out," Barnett said on a conference call Thursday night (more from Barnett here). "I couldn't even guess I was going to come here and Reggie White played here, you know what I'm saying? He probably is the greatest defensive lineman to ever play the game, so it probably is ironic. I'm just very excited."
The last time the Eagles drafted a defensive end in the first round was in 2014, when they traded down and took Marcus Smith out of Louisville in a panic move. That obviously hasn't worked out very well.
The last time the Eagles drafted a defensive lineman this high was in 2012, when they took Fletcher Cox with the 12th pick. That obviously has worked out pretty darn well.
The Eagles were initially without a first-round draft choice this year, having sent it to the Browns last year to move up to No. 2 and select Carson Wentz. But the Eagles were able to recoup a first-rounder right before the season when they traded Sam Bradford to the Vikings after Teddy Bridgewater's injury last summer.
At the combine in March, the Eagles won a coin toss against the Colts for the 14th pick. The Colts picked Ohio State safety Malik Hooker 15th overall.
This was the highest draft pick the Eagles have had since they had No. 4 (Lane Johnson) in 2013. The last time they had the 14th pick, they took Brodrick Bunkley in 2006.
The Eagles still have seven picks remaining in this year's draft as Day 2 kicks off on Friday night. The team owns a pick in every remaining round, including two in the fourth.