We are quickly closing in on draft day. The Cincinnati Bengals could have their eyes set on an edge rusher. Could Derek Barnett be the player they take? Let’s break down how the former Volunteer fits in the Queen City.
As the Bengals close in on this year’s draft, they will be looking at improving their pass rush. This year offers a deep class of edge rushers, and one of the best on the list is the former Tennessee Volunteer Derek Barnett. With Barnett, you get a 6′ 3″ pass rushing specialist weighing in at close to 270 pounds.
Big No. 9 is the University of Tennessee’s all-time sack leader breaking a mark held previously by the great Reggie White. Barnett wreaked havoc on the SEC, however, the question is can he bring that same kind of production to the NFL? Today we’re going to break down Barnett and see what kind of fit he brings to the Bengals.
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As previously stated, Barnett is the Volunteer’s all-time leader in sacks, which in the SEC is no small feat, especially when you look at the greats that have come through that program at Tennessee. Barnett gets a good jump off the snap and is a good technician with his hands fighting off offensive tackles. He also has excellent bend, dipping underneath opposing offensive linemen and can be lethal coming off the edge.
Barnett put up record-breaking numbers in one of the toughest conferences in college football, so he has shown he can hang with the best competition the country has to offer. As far as the Bengals are concerned, Barnett plays on the right side of the line which would put him opposite of Carlos Dunlap who is Cincinnati’s best defensive end.
Barnett only has one move to get to the quarterback, so if he gets pushed out of the box, he has no counter move to get back in the path of the quarterback. If Barnett can get the jump off of the snap he is nearly unblockable, however, if he doesn’t, he can be taken out of the play all together.
Barnett also tested poorly at the combine and does not seem to be an ‘elite’ athlete. Therefore, there could be some concerns among teams about how high his ceiling is and how much better he can get. Barnett is also a little on the small side compared to your prototype 4-3 defensive end. The Bengals, in particular, have shown a tendency to go for guys in the 6 foot 6 inch and 280 pounds plus range.
Even though Barnett needs to develop a counter rush move, he is only 20-years-old. It can be argued that he hasn’t fully tapped into all his potential as of yet. I also know he didn’t test well athletically, however, he has shown good technique to make up for it. At his age, I believe he can be coached up and develop the skills necessary to succeed at the next level.
Going back to the Bengals’ ‘prototype’ defensive end, they have shown with their recent transactions that they are willing to be more open-minded with the measurables of their pass rushers. The league continues to evolve. Of course, that doesn’t mean the Bengals won’t draft a bigger defensive end. It does, however, lead you to believe they could. Only time will tell as draft day approaches.
I like Derek’s production against elite competition, as well as his experience to go along with his young age. I also believe Barnett could be a really good fit playing opposite of Dunlap. He also doesn’t have to start right away but can still get plenty of snaps subbing for Michael Johnson. With the proper coaching, Barnett has the potential to be a very productive player. He could be a solid selection for the Bengals, should they decide to go that route with the ninth pick.