Derek Barnett to the Eagles explained

Derek Barnett to the Eagles explained

“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.

Kulp’s one-and-only Eagles 2017 seven-round NFL mock draft

Kulp’s one-and-only Eagles 2017 seven-round NFL mock draft

This Eagles mock draft -- like every mock draft -- is inaccurate and strictly for entertainment purposes only.

For the past 24 hours, I debated releasing a mock draft altogether, even though I had been working on one for several days. It’s a senseless exercise to begin with, as the odds of being right about any of these choices is slim. In the 2017 NFL Draft, the probability is lower than ever.

We’re just hours away from the draft, and we’re still not sure who’s going to the Cleveland Browns with the first overall pick. There’s also little consensus on how to rank the prospects beyond Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, and by the time the Eagles are on the clock at No. 14, it’s anybody’s guess where these players will go.

Adding to the mystery are a collection of potential top-15 talents who are next to impossible to rank due to character concerns or injuries. Ohio State’s Gareon Conley, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, Alabama’s Reuben Foster, Washington’s Sidney Jones or Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon all could’ve been options for the Eagles at 14 in alternate universe, and two or three still are -- now, who knows?

Those could be some of the options, as are Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, Central Michigan’s Corey Davis, Alabama’s O.J. Howard, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, Washington’s John Ross and LSU’s Tra’Davious White, to name a few. Frankly, we don’t even know when the run on quarterbacks will begin, which could drastically alter how the board looks when it’s the Eagles’ turn.

Even as we get into the later rounds, where there seems to be a tad more consensus in the rankings, there are some 300-plus prospects to choose from altogether. The Eagles currently have eight picks, which gives me roughly a 2.5 percent chance of nailing just one, presuming they don’t trade some away.

So long story short, don’t expect me to get this right. I certainly don’t, and anybody who tells who differently is kidding themselves -- this year more than most.

14. Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU

White isn’t necessarily graded as the best player or even cornerback available at this point, but that might be an oversight. Not many defensive prospects come along with four years starting experience at an SEC program, plus return punts, too. Don’t take my word for it, though. This is Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas talking about White at the Senior Bowl, via Turron Davenport for USA Today:

“He’s a leader. He’s been ultra-productive. He’s tough as nails. He plays nickel, he plays outside, he has ball skills. You can stack his level of production up against any corner in this draft.”

There is a chance the Eagles could land White or a similarly graded corner in round two, but I don’t think he lasts that long or they find a better fit. This fills a need, does so with somebody the Eagles are comfortable with, and a case could be made White is the best defensive player available here, rankings be damned. There’s probably 10 different directions they could go here — including a trade down — but either way, this choice makes a lot of sense.

43. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

No, I’m not willing to bet $500 on it, but I do buy into the buzz that Foster is sliding as the draft approaches. He may be a top-10 talent on the football field and hands down the best linebacker in the draft, but there is a host of other issues teams should be worried about.

That being said, the Eagles recently sent somebody to Tuscaloosa to see Foster, so their interest seems legitimate. The Baltimore Ravens had a history of drafting linebackers and Alabama products while Douglas was a member of the front office as well. Every year, at least one prospect falls much farther than expected. If Foster somehow lasts this long, he’ll be well worth the risk for the Eagles.

99. Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo

Hunt rushed for 4,945 yards — 25th in FBS history — and 44 touchdowns in four seasons for the Rockets, but it was the strides he made as a receiver out of the backfield his senior year that should make him attractive to the Eagles. With 41 receptions for 403 yards and a touchdown in 2016, Hunt showed the kind of dual-threat ability vital to coach Doug Pederson’s West Coast offense.

118. Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic

Hendrickson recorded 30.0 tackles for loss and 23.0 sacks over his junior and senior seasons. No, it wasn’t again top competition, but timed at 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash, he has the speed defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is looking for off the edge.

138. Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia

Gibson was supposed to run one of the fastest 40-yard dashes at the NFL Scouting Combine. Instead, the clock started fast, and he was timed at 4.5 seconds. That may cause him to drop a round or two in the draft, but the stats tell a different tale. Gibson averaged 22.6 yards per reception in three seasons at WVU and can flat out fly. He returns kickoffs, too.

155. Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State

Undersized at 5-foot-10 and not the greatest athlete, Kazee makes up for it with tremendous instinct and a nose for the football. Recorded 15 interceptions and three forced fumbles over his junior and senior seasons, while being aggressively natured in run support, too, racking up 8.5 tackles for loss. He’ll compete, which Schwartz loves in a corner.

194. Connor Harris, LB, Lindenwood

The NCAA All-Division record holder with 633 tackles, Harris is short at 5-foot-11 and not especially explosive, he simply knows how to play football. Had an offer from an FBS school and likely would have excelled, but was already committed to Lindenwood. Has the potential to become an outstanding special teams contributor.

230. Nate Hairston, CB, Temple

Hairston is an extremely raw prospect who is nowhere near ready to play cornerback in the NFL, but the Eagles could stash him on the practice squad for a year or two while he learns. He’s a local prospect, so what the hell, throw him on here. If I got one of these right, I’ll be popping open the champagne on Saturday night.

Reuben Foster has too many red flags for the Eagles

Reuben Foster has too many red flags for the Eagles

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Reuben Foster is vastly overrated, and the Eagles should avoid the Alabama linebacker in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft at all costs. This is only an opinion, and an unpopular one at that -- although Foster skeptics are not unheard of, either.

One anonymous talent evaluator claims the club he works for removed Foster from their draft board before a high-profile incident at the scouting combine. Another former high-level executive believes the Butkus Award winner for best linebacker in the nation will slide to day two of the draft.

Talent -- or physical and athletic ability -- doesn't seem to be what's at issue to people around the league, or at least it's not at the forefront of the conversation. Off-field matters have come under increasing scrutiny since Foster was dismissed from the combine for getting into a "heated argument" with a doctor. Later it was revealed his drug test came back dilute, which is treated as a positive test.

Even if we chalk up Foster's disastrous combine experience as a pair of unrelated misunderstandings, the 23-year-old's background is raising more concerns. Some of that talk is unfair, perhaps even plain out of bounds, but you can read about his personal life on Wikipedia and draw your own conclusions, as front-office types already have.

Is Foster's ability enough to transcend all of these supposed character flaws? Many feel this is a top-10 talent who can anchor the middle of the Eagles defense for the next decade.

I am far less certain. There are plenty of red flags in Foster's game, too. Known for being a big hitter, his reckless style of play seems to be at least partly responsible for a long list of injuries, and lends itself to more in the future. Even looking at Foster in terms of pure production, there is reason to doubt he is ever going to become an impact player at the next level.

While numbers are no substitute for the tape, Foster's stat line doesn't mesh with the perception that he's a game changer. The unanimous All-American was a tackling machine and flashed pass-rush skill, but made almost zero measurable impact in coverage and didn’t force a single turnover in three seasons for the Crimson Tide.

No forced fumbles. No interceptions. Only two pass breakups as a senior. And Foster's 5.0 sacks don't hold as much weight with the Eagles, because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz seldom blitzes. So what's the big deal about this kid?

Oh, right, he hits hard. Well, that’s sort of a problem in itself. Foster's highlight-reel collisions have taken on a life of their own, although they're a lot scarier than they are impressive.

Foster has a tendency to lower his head when he goes to make a tackle, which has consequences. Poor technique is widely believed to have resulted in multiple neck stingers during his career, while it puts the athlete at greater risk for concussions as well (he had one of those as well). Leading with the helmet will inevitably result in penalties, too, though perhaps the least of our concerns here.

Even if Foster will suddenly transform into a playmaker, injuries could keep him off the field. He's had numerous throughout his college career, including a shoulder that teams have been monitoring throughout the pre-draft process.

Put on just about any Alabama game from the past year, and Foster stands out. He's disruptive at the point of attack and behind the line of scrimmage, and punishes ball carriers. There is no denying Foster can make opponents think twice about going over the middle.

Yet, is Foster going to be there to delivering those crushing blows, or will he be sidelined by injuries and suspensions at the next level? And when healthy, will he simply rack up triple-digit tackles year after year, or will he start to make plays that alter the momentum and course of a football game?

When you take the total package into the equation, Foster isn't worth the top-15 pick in the draft -- not for the Eagles, anyway. There are too many red flags, and I'm not convinced he would have an outsized impact in Schwartz's defense.