As the draft approaches and our conversation has become fixated on the running back debate of 2017, Dave Gettleman may elect to grab that Blue Goose pass-rusher he loves. Here's what people are saying about Derek Barnett, a name that has been up and down the 1st round draft ladder.
C3's Mel Mayock:
Carolina looks to have the rotation of Julius Peppers, Mario Addison, and Charles Johnson at Defensive Line in 2017. Sounds pretty good, huh? However, Pep looks to play 20 snaps or so, and Charles Johnson's tooth is quite long these days. Getting pressure on the opposing QB is what makes or breaks the Panthers' Defense. So don't be surprised if David Gettleman pulls the trigger early on a player pass-rushing specialist.
Myles Garrett was the top player taken off the board, and I like how Barnett stacks up to Garrett. Barnett had 33 career sacks at UT (Breaking Reggie White's record) compared to Garrett's 32.5. Here's a stat that I love: A whopping 28 of Barnett's 33 sacks came against SEC opponents. Even though Garrett has the more prototypical size, Barnett is more of the Panthers' type of player. He loves football. Barnett is full of relentless energy and simply keeps pounding.. I think the Panthers end up with the right guy to add depth in 2017 and to grow into a leader for years to come . ~@PanthersDrafter, Panthers Analyst
Strengths: Elite production on par with former Vol and Hall of Famer Reggie White against run and as sack artist. Not content to just set the edge -- wants to make the play. Uses hand fighting and play strength to work through leverage points. Long strider who can crash down the line to challenge gap plays if unblocked. Punishing hitter. Delivers crushing tackles and sacks when given the opportunity. Hustle player who pursues the play with intent. Rag-dolls tight ends at point of attack. Plus field awareness recognizing play-action, reverses, and screens. Fluid enough to drop into space and play some zone.
Weaknesses: Admitted slow starter who has had issues with sluggishness to start a season. Will overthink it at times rather than just reacting. Can be undisciplined with guessing snap count and taking penalties. Change-of-direction issues typical of a broad-waisted big man. Struggles to redirect movements suddenly once momentum starts rolling downhill. Quarterbacks with pocket mobility can elude him. Substantially more twitch in hands than in feet. Feet are average. Initial burst upfield is average. Times snap count to help with his get-off. Aggressive forward charge opens him up to cut blocks.
Strengths: The production in college was special. Barnett recorded double-digit sacks in all three of his seasons at Tennessee, and he averaged 17.3 tackles for loss per year. He was such a force in the backfield that teams would hammer the opposite side of the line, rather than run right at him—Alabama did this, to a degree, even though it had first round-bound tackle Cam Robinson to block Barnett.
He’s not a massive edge presence (6' 3", 259 pounds), but he plays with enough force to be able to hold the line. And as a pass rusher, it’s an effort-technique combo that gets the job done for him. When Barnett times the snap, he has the quickness to bend the edge and meet the QB at the top of his drop; when he’s met with a blocker, he unleashes an effective rip move to pull himself clear with his hands.
Barnett plays an intelligent DE, too. Teams occasionally could catch him with misdirection, but for the most part, he stayed home and stuck to his assignments. Many a read option headed his direction buckled early because Barnett snuffed out the initial move.
Weaknesses: Barnett’s snap-timing ways make for an inconsistent ebb and flow to his game. When he nails it, he can shoot past offensive tackles in a heartbeat, but there certainly are plays when he guesses wrong and is among the last to react. This happened on an early snap in that same Alabama game, and tight end O.J. Howard was able to get on Barnett’s outside shoulder and wall him off for a run his direction.
Because his game is missing that otherworldly quick footwork, Barnett can be negated if the player blocking him lands the first blow. He doesn’t loop back and win inside enough yet, so teams with mobile quarterbacks can take advantage of his approach by allowing him to go wide and then attacking the vacated gap.
Greg Hardy, Panthers (on the field)
Like Hardy, Barnett may not always look like the classic edge defender, but he gets the job done by beating blocks in the run game and as a pass-rusher.
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