Redskins Draft Preview: Tennessee DE Derek Barnett

The NFL draft begins on April 27th in Philadelphia and the Redskins have the No. 17 selection in the first round. This is the third in a series of stories analyzing 15 players who could be a good fit for Washington at that position.

Derek Barnett
Defensive end
6-foot-3
259 pounds
Tennessee

Barnett broke Reggie White’s long-standing sack record at Tennessee to cap an insanely productive career in the SEC (33). But does he have the physical tools to keep that up at the NFL level? The idea is a team would get a player consistently capable of reaching double-digit sacks somewhere in the 10 to 20 range.  That fits a big need for the Redskins.

How he fits: Some scouts see a base 4-3 defensive end. Others believe Barnett can play as a 3-4 outside linebacker. There’s no real consensus – just a host of opinions on how he’d best be used. Whatever the case, Barnett knows how to get to the quarterback and isn’t that the whole point? Because the Redskins have a desperate need there. Ryan Kerrigan is a reliable double-digit sack player. No one else on the roster is. Junior Galette hasn’t played since 2014. Preston Smith fell off after a strong rookie year. Trent Murphy has been suspended the first four games of the 2017 season. You can never have enough pass rushers. Barnett is a smooth athlete with strong hands. He can chop offensive linemen away to shed blocks and is good against the run. He’s capable of punishing hits. There’s a lot to like here. Plus, his college tape is consistently strong.

Questions: The questions always come down to Barnett’s explosiveness and physical tools. He’s not as quick off the ball as most top-end pass rushers, but makes up for it with a good closing burst and natural pass-rushing instincts. The concern is that against bigger NFL tackles those gifts will be swallowed whole. Doesn’t have long arms. Again, that could negate the strength of his hands. Some teams are skeptical, according to multiple draft insiders.

What they’re saying:

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network: “I was around Terrell Suggs a little bit with the Ravens, who is another guy that didn’t test all that well. Man, he was plenty fast enough when you got on the football field. I think you see some of those same things with Barnett.”

Todd McShay, ESPN: “I don’t know what his 40 time was. I really don’t even care. But when he gets to a point where it’s a straight line to close to the quarterback, he closes as quickly as anyone in this class probably outside of Myles Garrett.”

 

Follow Brian McNally on Twitter.

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