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NFL Draft Scouting Report: Derek Barnett, OLB, Tennessee

Scouting Report: Tennessee OLB Derek Barnett is profiled and evaluated for the 2017 NFL Draft.

Derek Barnett, OLB/EDGE, Tennessee

Position: Edge Rusher (DE/OLB)
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 259

Class: Junior
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Experience: 3-year starter


40yd dash:          4.88
Broad jump:        9’9”
Vertical:                31”
3-cone:                 6.96

Career Notes:

Derek Barnett was an instant sensation in Knoxville, beginning his career with a Tennessee freshman record 10.0 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss, which earned him a spot on many an All-Freshman team and even a few All-SEC second teams. While his production tailed off a bit in his sophomore season, he still had a fantastic season recording another double-digit sack season with 10 to go with 12.5 tackles for loss. But his junior season was when he went from difference-maker to star, recording 13 sacks for 93 yards lost as well as 19 tackles for loss. Those stellar pass-rushing statistics earned him a spot as an AP 1st Team All-America as well as several other First and Second Team nominations.

Injury Report: 

Injuries were rarely a problem for Barnett as he played in 13 games in each of his three seasons with the Vols. He even impressed many scouts by performing at his Pro Day despite an injured hamstring.

Career Stats(click here):



Against the Run – 4.5/5                                                                                                                                             

Barnett was great against the run, even when often tasked with taking on double and triple teams. Despite mostly being known for his pass-rushing prowess, he showed unique discipline when playing the run. It should also be noted that many teams simply gave up running toward Barnett, as a disproportionate amount of run plays in games against Tennessee were ran away from Barnett. What separates him from his competition was his hand usage, often winning the leverage battle quickly off the snap, allowing him to locate and flow to the ball carrier to help make the tackle. His recognition skills were perhaps his best attribute, as he showed a unique ability to keep his head up when engaged with offensive linemen allowing him to quickly redirect lineman or try and make a tackle for loss.

Pass Rush – 4.0/5

While Barnett showcases many traits that make him a great pass rusher, the first one that immediately jumps off the screen is his speed off the edge. Most of his pressures and in turn sacks came as a speed rusher to the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle, displaying elite burst to beat the tackle out of his stance before getting to the quarterback. Few players enter the draft with a more proven track-record of sacking the quarterback, but despite his illustrious sack totals, Barnett’s pass rush leads to more questions than answers. While his speed rush and hand usage are terrific, he does not have much in the way of counter moves and lacks the ability to overpower his opponents. The latter in particular draws into question whether or not he can win in the NFL consistently as purely a speed rusher.

Athleticism – 4.0/5.0

Barrett has many redeeming qualities as a prospect, but with the increased emphasis on athletic traits for prospects and their ability to transition to the NFL, Barnett went from a sure-fire top 10 pick to one who might be waiting until late in the first round. While his 3-cone drill was borderline elite (88th percentile per, he unexpectedly measured below average in some of the other proxies for explosion (25th percentile in the vertical jump and 38th in the 40-yard dash). Perhaps most alarming were his short arms, which ranked in the 5th percentile. But his agility may end up being his carrying trait, as he flashes over and over on tape, consistently using his quick-twitch abilities to get pressures, sacks and hurries on opposing quarterbacks. 

Impact Play Ability – 4.0/5

In terms of college production, one would be hard-pressed to find a prospect with a better combination of college production and competition level. In just three seasons, Barnett broke the Tennessee record for most sacks in a career with 32, passing former Volunteer and Packer great Reggie White. Most of his sacks were quick bursts off the edge, where he used a spectacular first step to oftentimes defeat left tackles before they could even recover. While these pass rushes can sometimes be evaded, when they do land they often result in large losses of up to 10 yards, which can be particularly difficult to overcome and often lead to punts. As a junior, he even developed the ability to defend passes, recording an impressive seven passes defensed.

Versatility – 2.5/5

While at Tennessee, Barnett played almost exclusively at right end, where he faced some of the best left tackles college football had to offer. While in a former decade this would be seen as a positive, the current NFL requires plays to be much more versatile. While it is important to note that just because he was not asked to move around the line of scrimmage does not mean that he is incapable of playing on the left side or in the interior, it does mean that he will have to spend time honing his craft and footwork to play other techniques besides outside right end. Because of his rare combination of size and speed, he will likely find himself playing as an interior rusher in several nickel packages as the NFL transitions to more of a specialist-based league.

Overall – 4.0/5

Barnett has many positive traits that will land him somewhere in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft. He leads all prospects entering the 2017 Draft in career sacks and did so in what many consider to be the best conference in college football. While he is a tad undersized to remain a 4-3 defensive end at the next level, his stellar 3-cone time at the combine makes a transition to rushing from a two-point stance seem like a promising idea. While his short arms might make his ability to consistently win at the point of attack in the NFL, some team will fall in love with his Power 5 pedigree and dominant production on the field that should make him an impact player from his first day in the pros.

If Drafted by the Packers:

Early in the draft process, it seemed impossible that Barnett would end up a Packer barring the rare Ted Thompson trade up. But after a less than stellar Combine performance that brought into question just exactly where Barnett fits at the next level, most well-connected mock drafts have Barnett going in the middle of the first round. Barnett would likely make the conversion to 3-4 outside linebacker in the Packers defensive scheme as a pass-rusher off the edge. While he played minimal snaps from either a two-point stance or in coverage while at Tennessee, his agility provides promise that he can be at least competent in those areas and, perhaps more importantly, outweighs any deficiencies in those areas with a tangible impact on the Packers’ ability to get after the quarterback.



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Comments (1)

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Lphill's picture

April 27, 2017 at 09:47 am

Another guy that has to transition to a new position , no thanks

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