Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Weight: 259 lbs.
2016: 56 TKL, 19.0 TFL, 13.0 SK, 5 PD, 1 INT, 2 FF
2015: 69 TKL, 12.5 TFL, 10.0 SK, 1 PD, 1 FF
2014: 73 TKL, 20.5 TFL, 9.0 SK
40-yard dash: 4.88 seconds
Vertical jump: 31 inches
Broad jump: 117 inches
3-done drill: 6.96 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.44 seconds
Derek Barnett would have impossible shoes to fill with the Eagles. As the man who defeated Reggie White’s sack record at the University of Tennessee, some fans might expect him to replicate the Minister of Defense at the next level, as well.
Such lofty comparisons to one of the greatest players in NFL history are unfair of course, although besting White’s mark was no small feat. In fact, at a time when so many athletes are drafted early for their potential to rush the passer, Barnett has demonstrated consistency getting to the quarterback that few college prospects ever have.
Barnett leaves Tennessee tied for sixth in NCAA Division I/FBS history with 32 sacks, and had he returned for his senior season, would likely have registered the five needed to become the all-time leader. Not all of the names on that list are instantly recognizable, but Von Miller and Ryan Kerrigan are among the few who are ahead – each in four seasons.
In fact, Barnett has the most sacks of any player after just three seasons, narrowly eclipsing Myles Garrett, who is expected to go No. 1 in the 2017 NFL Draft. In other words, Barnett’s résumé should be above reproach.
Except Barnett’s combine did expose one glaring flaw. While he has a big, NFL frame and should be able to hold up at the point of attack, he’s by no means the most explosive athlete. Barnett wins battles with strength, motor and an impressively sophisticated technique, but he’s not going to run past many offensive tackles in the pro game.
This is why it’s dangerous to get caught up in the combine. Here we have a proven producer, and the primary knock is he’s a tenth of a second or two slower in the 40-yard dash than you would like. Barnett even finished among the top performers in the three-cone drill, which shows he possesses the high-end agility and bend to get around the edge.
Yet, a sampling of the defensive ends who have been successful in Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s scheme does show a favorable tendency to speed at that position. Jevon Kearse, Kevin Carter, Cliff Avril, Ziggy Ansah, Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams all ran significantly faster in a straight line.
Kyle Vanden Bosch was the slowest edge defender Schwartz helped mold into a star, tutoring the former Titans pass-rusher to three Pro Bowls and two double-digit sack seasons. Then again, even Vanden Bosch ran a 4.76.
Schwartz’s scheme is predicated on attacking, which is why Barnett’s speed seems like a big deal. Scouting reports also seem concerned with his ability to become a star at end, as consensus thinking suggests he may be better off lining up at outside linebacker out of a 3-4 alignment.
The reports are not entirely dissimilar to what was said about Brandon Graham coming out of Michigan in 2010. The production, effort and instincts are there. He plays the run, can slide inside and knows how to use his hands like a seasoned veteran. However, he lacks great burst and there are questions about what type of scheme he would be best suited for.
Graham is a tremendous player, and there are far worse scenarios for Barnett. Then again, the Eagles ought to be looking for somebody who finishes off quarterbacks with a little more frequency. Barnett did it in college, better than Reggie, but may be facing some major hurdles as a pro.
Other Eagles draft targets at No. 14:
Tennessee DE Derek Barnett
Michigan DE Taco Charlton
Ohio State CB Gareon Conley
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
Western Michigan WR Corey Davis
Alabama LB Reuben Foster
LSU RB Leonard Fournette
Alabama TE O.J. Howard
Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
Washington CB Kevin King
Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey
Michigan State DT Malik McDowell
UCLA DE Takkarist McKinley
Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk
Washington WR John Ross
LSU CB Tre'Davious White
Clemson WR Mike Williams