“His production is unmatched.”
- Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas on Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett
Player A and Player B play three concurrent seasons at separate, major FBS programs. Player A registers 32.5 sacks, 16.0 of which -- or half -- are against mid-majors. Player B registers 33.0 sacks, 29.0 of which are against SEC opponents, with just 1.0 against mid-majors.
Player A is Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, the No. 1-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Player B is Derek Barnett, the newest member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
In the city where Reggie White’s jersey is still a best seller, the Eagles drafted the player who bested his collegiate sack record at the University of Tennessee. What more do you want?
No, Barnett is not the Minister of Defense. Barnett may not possess the upside of Garrett, or even Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas at No. 3 overall, either. Of course, none of White, Garrett or Thomas were options for the Eagles, so it’s sort of a moot point.
Barnett was on the board when the Eagles were on the clock with the 14th pick in 2017, and he was peerless.
His production wasn’t merely unmatched among pass rushers. There wasn’t a prospect available at any position with Barnett’s résumé -- total dominance from his true-freshman season on, in college football’s toughest, most pro-ready conference.
It’s simple, really. Had Barnett returned for his senior season, he had an excellent shot at eclipsing Ravens great Terrell Suggs’ 44 sacks -- the official* FBS record. (Derrick Thomas and Teddiu Bruschi are credited with 52 sacks, before the NCAA kept official statistics.)
There is the matter of Barnett’s unfortunate time in the 40-yard dash, which Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said required no excuses, right before making the excuses.
The lesson of Mike Mamula was only 22 years ago, but fortunately for the franchise’s fans, this front office doesn’t appear intent on making that mistake again. Well, again, after making it again with Marcus Smith in 2014.
Maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about turning a track star into an NFL pass rusher.
Defensive end is clearly a need for the Eagles as well. Brandon Graham has never posted more than 6.5 sacks in a season. Vinny Curry has never even started a game. Chris Long is 32. Smith is a bust. Alex McCalister has yet to play a down. Lots of talent, but no answers.
Honestly, there’s almost nothing to dislike about Barnett. The pick lacks a certain sex appeal, because you can’t draft him on your fantasy football team, and he doesn’t fill the obvious need at glamour position like cornerback.
Barnett just tackled the opposing team’s quarterback roughly once per game on average at Tennessee. Nothing too important.
Whether Barnett can continue to do that at the next level remains to be seen. Yet, while there may be more athletic pass rushers in this draft, the tape will show none are as polished.
Barnett wasn’t the popular pick in this class by any means for Eagles fans -- he wouldn’t have cracked the top five, and I’m not so sure about the top 10. Although, as far as the No. 14 pick is concerned, Barnett doesn’t really have a flaw, either.