In a draft headlined by elite pass rushers such as Myles Garrett, Tennessee’s Derek Barnett has seemingly become a forgotten man. However, the ultra-productive Barnett very well could be exactly what the Ravens are looking for off of the edge.
A profile of Barnett can only start with the numbers he put up during his career as a Vol. In the Music City Bowl against Nebraska, Barnett dropped Huskers quarterback Ryker Fyfe for his 33rd career sack. That sack moved Barnett past a Hall-of-Fame player in Reggie White for first in career sacks at Tennessee. Barnett was named to an All-SEC team in each of his three years in college, an impressive feat given the talented pass rushers to come through the SEC. Barnett finished the 2016-17 season with 13 sacks and 55 tackles, all in 13 games.
Barnett has arguably the best hands of any pass rusher in the draft. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein writes that Barnett is a, “championship hand fighter on college level. Hands are strong, fast, efficient and lethal.” Barnett’s hand fighting skills are very comparable to 2016 defensive ROY Joey Bosa’s.
Zierlein also writes, “Not content to just set the edge -- wants to make the play. Uses hand fighting and play strength to work through leverage points. Long strider who can crash down the line to challenge gap plays if unblocked. Punishing hitter. Delivers crushing tackles and sacks when given the opportunity. Hustle player who pursues the play with intent.”
That is exactly the kind of player the Ravens are looking for. A relentless pass rusher that makes sure the play is completed all the way through. The Tennessee product fights through contact, and is able to use his strength to beat offensive tackles. In college, tight ends lined up to block failed miserably against Barnett. Barnett is also more than willing to defend against the run, as shown in his high tackle numbers.
He isn’t fast, but neither is Terrell Suggs. In fact, Barnett is the same height and weight as Suggs. Barnett played mostly defensive end in college, but as he is the same size as Suggs, the transition would not be terribly difficult.
Barnett is very physical, and would fit perfectly in the AFC North. With Suggs still on the roster, Barnett will be mentored by one of the best in the business. In addition, Barnett will not be thrust into a starting role in his rookie season (barring injuries), thus he will get the chance he needs to refine his skills.
If the Ravens choose to go with a pass rusher in the first round, Derek Barnett will be one of the top contenders to be selected with the 16th pick. With his brand of physicality, Barnett could perfectly fit the mold of Ravens football.