- Pressured quarterbacks at Tennessee on an impressive 20% of his rushes, a full 10% above the average
- Outstanding balance and ankle flexion allow him to bend the edge and get lower than offensive tackles on a consistent basis
- In defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Barnett has a coach who will play to his strengths with a wide-9 alignment and asks a lot of his defensive ends
- Struggles to win against blockers up the middle with a bull rush and will often resort to inside or outside moves
- The depth chart is crowded for the Eagles at defensive end, with Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Chris Long all likely to compete for playing time
- Edge defenders are normally kept in the incubator by coaches for as long as is feasible before unleashing them on the league in fits and starts; Barnett will have to wait his turn
BARNETT OR GARRETT?
Derek Barnett may have been selected 13 spots later than consensus No 1 overall pick Myles Garrett of Texas A&M, but the talent gap may not be as wide as this separation implies. Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus points out that, over a three-season sample size, Barnett generated pressure once in every six 6.0 rushes; Garrett came in at one in every 5.9. If you sit down and watch cut-ups of Barnett, you would be forgiven for labelling him as a streaky player. At times he looks disinterested and lacking in fundamentals, while at other times he is unquestionably the most dominant player on the field. The situation in Philadelphia, with defensive line talent alongside him like Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and others, should lend itself to early success. Will he equal the achievements and career numbers of a so-called ‘generational’ talent like Garrett? Maybe not, but he’ll get mighty close.
Defensive line coach Chris Wilson has played it like a pro when it comes to getting Barnett ready for the season. Eschewing the traditional route of lavishing praise with no qualifier, Wilson was quick to add ‘we haven’t put the pads on yet’ as he praised his new defensive line addition. The presence of Jim Schwartz, who has successfully utilized his line talent wherever he has been, should be a boon for the young pass rusher as well. Coaching matters when it comes to turning rookies from raw, unpolished stones to shimmering diamonds. The path is there for Barnett to succeed early and earn meaningful snaps in year one.
POISED TO PROSPER
Breaking the great Reggie White’s sack record (33) at Tennessee is a feat not to be sniffed at. College success hasn’t gone to Barnett’s head, evidently, as he has hit the ground running in the offseason. Many analysts are quick to dismiss the so-called ‘puff pieces’ of the quiet period in the NFL, but they would be unwise to not at least pay attention when patterns emerge. The momentum has been nothing but positive for Barnett so far, and it is not outside the realms of possibility that he impresses in camp and usurps an established starter like Vinny Curry by mid-season.
The case can be argued that Derek Barnett’s talent is good enough to be considered the best defensive lineman from this class when we look back in five to 10 years. His methods may not always earn him a spot on the highlight reel plays like a Dwight Freeney or Clay Matthews, but the results will be just as effective. He is a player to keep a close eye on as training camp kicks off. With a little fine tuning of his game, he could very well be a solid DL3 in redraft leagues by the end of 2017, and figures to be a DL1 moving forward in dynasty formats as soon as 2018.
AARON RUDNICKI’S PROJECTIONS
JOHN NORTON’S PROJECTIONS
Footballguys’ Jene Bramel included Barnett in his ‘Dynasty Stash’ tier of his most recent defensive line analysis piece, insisting the precocious pass rusher ‘may get 500-600 snaps immediately’.
Matt Lombardo of NJ.com commented on Barnett’s swift progression in OTAs and minicamps. Barnett reportedly took ‘a significant portion of first-team reps throughout OTAs’ and drew ‘rave reviews from teammates both on offense and defense’.
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