By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — The bluster that flies around press conferences after NFL teams announce their choices is enough to smoke out a high school auditorium. Every team’s general manager always says the player that picked is the player they’ve targeted, and that the player was “the highest-rated player on our board.”
This time, the Eagles might have actually been genuine when Howie Roseman, the Eagles executive vice president of football operations and Joe Douglas, vice president of player personnel, were downright giddy over getting 6-foot-3, 259-pound Tennessee defensive Derek Barnett with the 14th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night, being held here at the Philadelphia Parkway.
While at Tennessee, Barnett broke late Hall of Famer Reggie White’s career sack record at Tennessee with 33.
“I heard the fans are very passionate here and I can’t wait to work and get back to what I love to do,” Barnett said. “My meeting with (Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz) went very well and he thinks I fit the defense very well. I watch film of Michael Bennett and I feel I resemble him a little bit.
“I know the Eagles have a lot of great defensive linemen up front. I did a lot of study in college. I have to get an advantage mentally, and throughout my career, that’s what I did. I can learn a lot from Fletcher Cox. I can’t wait to play outside of him. I was a little nervous (when his name was called). You never know where people that I’m going to go.”
Roseman said that Barnett fits the Eagles Wide-9 scheme, and the culture the team is trying to build.
“It’s easy to watch Derek and picture him and what he can do in this scheme,” Roseman said. “I think the pressure up front helps the secondary when you can get to the quarterback.”
Douglas compares Barnett to Terrell Suggs, who Douglas was very familiar with during his time with Baltimore.
“Just from the perspective that both guys didn’t test outrageously in the combine setting, but both are highly productive players, and high toughness,” Douglas said. “What Derek is highly proficient at is the top of his rush. He has an excellent ability to bend at the top and finish. He uses a variety of moves. He can speed rush, he can rush power, so you’re getting a guy who knows how to finish plays.”
It was an odd first round. No one expected three trades to take place for quarterbacks.
By the demeanor of Douglas, Roseman and Eagles’ head coach Doug Pedersen, you also got the impression the choice was made by Douglas. Roseman relayed a short story about one day last December coming to his office raving about Barnett, while Roseman disclosed a piece of paper with Barnett’s name written on it.
Defensive end 6’3″/259 pounds
NFL Scouting Report Overview:
The defensive line talent seen in the Southeastern Conference makes it difficult to make an all-conference squad. Barnett made the honor roll three times in three years. The Nashville native was the first freshman ever to start on the line for Tennessee in 2014, making 20.5 tackles for loss (which led the SEC) and 10 sacks on the year. Barnett led the Vols with 10 more sacks in 2015, earning a spot on the Associated Press All-Bowl Team with eight tackles and a sack versus Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. In his junior year, Barnett was a first-team All-SEC pick and first-team All-American by multiple outlets with 18 tackles for loss and 12 sacks (which ranked sixth in the FBS).
Championship hand fighter on college level. Hands are strong, fast, efficient and lethal. Punch-and-discard winner. As rusher, swats are well-timed discarding tackle’s punch attempt. Attacks the edge with good forward lean and works hands and feet in harmony on road to the quarterback. Uses jab steps and lateral movement to search for the edge of the blocker. Has leverage and strength to play right through redirects. Elite production on par with former Vol and Hall of Famer Reggie White against run and as sack artist. 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. Rag-dolls tight ends at point of attack. Plus field awareness recognizing play-action, reverses, and screens. Fluid enough to drop into space and play some zone.
Admitted slow starter who has had issues with sluggishness to start a season. Will overthink it at times rather than just reacting. Can be undisciplined with guessing snap count and taking penalties. Change-of-direction issues typical of a broad-waisted big man. Struggles to redirect movements suddenly once momentum starts rolling downhill. Quarterbacks with pocket mobility can elude him. Substantially more twitch in hands than in feet. Feet are average. Initial burst upfield is average. Times snap count to help with his get-off. Aggressive forward charge opens him up to cut blocks. Long stride creates base inconsistencies at point of attack. Length is a concern. Can he still win without decisive, early victories with his hands? Loops to quarterback are rounded and might need a winning, inside counter move as a pro.
Bottom Line Strong edge presence with NFL-caliber hand usage and play strength. Barnett is one of the most productive defensive linemen to come out of the SEC in quite some time despite lacking the length and twitch that teams usually look for off the edge. His awareness and play traits should keep him near the action and he has the talent to step into a starting base end spot right away. There could be coordinators who view him as an early down, outside backer in a 3-4 with the ability to put his hand in the ground on sub packages.