Welcome to the first of my eight post series where I watched every single game tape I can find of each Philadelphia Eagles draft pick(and one undrafted signee). I think it’s important to go back to the tape, regardless of whether I love who they drafted, hated the pick or didn’t know much about the player at all. It’s important to watch the tape and try to see what the coaches see and try to understand what his exact role will be on this team.
For the first film study of the draft I start with the first round pick, Derek Barnett. Barnett was a defensive end from Tennessee that was everything to his defense. You can see it by how offenses game-planned around his ability. Some teams screened to his side, some used both the left tackle and left guard to block him( or RT, RG) and some just prayed he wouldn’t completely take over the game(he did a few times).
I was a big fan of Barnett before the draft(#4 on my board), I love the pick at 14 and I’m an even bigger fan after re-watching all of his college tape. I know his critics will cite his lower combine numbers(4.88 40), but his tape is too good to think he won’t translate well in the NFL.
WEAKNESSES- Barnett has plenty of issues and I get why some are a little down on him, but it’s nothing that will cause him to be ineffective at the next level. He does tend to jump the snap a lot, or at least attempt to. That could lead to him getting baited by hard counts against veteran quarterbacks. He had something like 8 offsides penalties his last two years because of it. Some critics suggest that’s how he had so much success at the college level. It’s not true. He had maybe one good play in the backfield from jumping the snap, this is more about him getting victimized by hard counts than anything else.
Barnett also isn’t a powerful edge rusher and doesn’t have much of a bull rush. Brandon Graham does and that’s why I think they will compliment each other so well, but when Barnett can’t win with his quickness, he won’t be able to counter with pure strength.
The only other area that concerns me is how many big plays Barnett misses by not finishing the play. Sometimes he just over-pursues, other times he only gets a hand on the quarterback and allows a big scramble lane. It was something I listed after his 2015 season as something I wanted to see get better. It did improve in 2016, but it’s still an issue going forward.
STRENGTHS- Alright, onto the positive stuff, and there is a lot. First off, I know the term “motor” with pass rushers is overused, but Barnett’s motor is relentless. He goes so hard early on in every single game that I expect him to tire out by the fourth quarter, but he never goes. He’s conditioned like a soccer player, he has the quickness of a basketball player, but he’s built like a football player. By the time the fourth quarter hits the offensive tackles are exhausted and he looks like he is fresh off the bench. He’s the John Havlicek of edge rushers.
Barnett’s go-to move is the “up and under” or the “dip and rip”, depending on which term you like best. He explodes off the snap, bends under the tackle and gains leverage to get to the quarterback. He does this better than any prospect in the draft and I include Myles Garrett in that category. It was harder for him to dominate in college with this move because so much of college offenses now are quick passes and zone runs, but when teams had to utilize 5 step drops in the passing game, he was nearly unstoppable. He’ll see more of that and less athletic quarterbacks in the NFL which should lead to even better production at the next level.
The popular narrative with Barnett in year one is that he will be just a nickel DE early on. The concern is that he isn’t good against the run, but that’s just a case of scouting by combine numbers. He lacks power, but at 260 it’s not like he doesn’t have the size to hold up against the run. He does a good job of keeping his head up, disengaging and using his quickness to get off blocks. He rarely gets locked up and the effort is definitely there.
NFL PROJECTION- Barnett is going to have a ton of success early in his career. The wide-9 scheme is perfect for what he does best, win with quickness and explosion off the snap. At Tennessee he could get outside pressure, but the quarterback could always step up into the pocket because the defense rarely generated interior penetration. That won’t be the case with Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan in Philly, plus Brandon Graham playing opposite of him.
Offenses can’t key on him alone either, because that front four is far too loaded to key on any one player. I believe Barnett is a very similar player to Joey Bosa who had 9.5 sacks as a rookie. Bosa is a little bit stronger, but athletically they are very similar players.
Whether or not I think Barnett is a starter right away is irrelevant because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz rotates his linemen so much that it really doesn’t matter. I think Barnett plays at least 40% of the snaps when healthy and I’d go as high as 60%. I also think 8-10 sacks as a rookie is very realistic, thought he could have maybe only 4 or 5 sacks and still be a big part of a defensive line that racks up well over 40 sacks this season.