Many draft analysts have mocked Tennessee’s Derek Barnett to the Saints with the eleventh pick.
Barnett didn’t put together the strongest combine performance. But considering the defensive end reportedly took part in the combine despite a stomach virus, that may not discourage the New Orleans Saints from calling his name come draft day.
Barnett measured in at 259 pounds.
That’s four pounds above the NFL average for a defensive end. But it’s also on the lower end of the spectrum at the combine, where players have worked out and put up water weight specifically for the weigh-in. Among the top prospects, only Takkarist McKinley, Tim Williams, Charles Harris, and Tashawn Bower weighed less. McKinley and Bower would be more appropriately listed as OLBs.
Considering the Saints are looking for a pass-rushing end to play on the weak side, that weight won’t necessarily be a concern. But I doubt the stomach virus would have affected the number. The Saints do prefer bigger ends that can hold their own in a four-man front, so it is something to consider.
Barnett ran a 4.81 and 4.85 40-yard dash
That’s not great. Some outlets even have his dash as a 4.88.
Among names you’ll recognize, that’s better only than Taco Charlton and Jonathan Allen. Charlton figures to play both inside and outside, and Allen may play DT exclusively at the next level.
Other prospective DTs put up a better dash than did Barnett. Soloman Thomas, who many knock primarily for not being a fast enough athlete, ran a 4.69. Thomas also figures to play some of DT at the next level.
Without the versatility to play inside, Barnett’s 40 numbers may be reason for concern for NFL teams. That won’t necessarily scare away the Saints, who figured to start Hau’oli Kikaha at DE last season. Kikaha ran a 4.9 40 and is not an outstanding athlete by any measure. But Saints fans know the limitations that sets for an EDGE rusher, especially when they’re asked to drop back or play any sort of scheme other than rushing.
Barnett managed a 31″ vertical jump, and a 117″ broad jump.
Those numbers aren’t bad.
I mean, Myles Garrett did post a 41″ vertical. But that’s Myles Garrett. Most of the other prospects finished in the same ballpark as Barnett in that respect, although with the top prospects the average was a bit higher, wavering around 33″.
The broad jump numbers are pretty solid. Again, Garrett managed 128″. And a few other of the top prospects put up similar numbers. Tim Williams and Soloman Thomas managed 125″ and 126″ respectively. Villanova standout Tanoh Kpassagnon also put up 128″.
But 117″ is a solid number, and won’t raise any red flags. Barnett finished above much of his competition at the top of the draft board, even if others outshone him.
Barnett’s strongest performance was the 3-cone drill. 6.96 seconds.
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Agility will figure to be an important indicator of Barnett’s physical profile, considering he was never highly touted as an athlete.
Barnett shined when he needed to. His 6.96 seconds ranks him fifth among all players competing in the DE position group. And that group includes a number of players who figure to play LB in the pros.
The only player at the top of the board who outperformed Barnett in the drill was Soloman Thomas. Thomas was also the only player who weighed more than Barnett and finished in the 6-second range. Parenthetically, it’s worth noting that Soloman Thomas put together an exceptional combine and solidified his rise to the upper half of the first round.
Barnett may not have come through the combine with exceptional numbers, but at least he managed to stand-out where expected.
As I mentioned, nobody had Barnett pegged as an exceptional athlete. He made his mark in college through intelligence and awareness, not explosion. So this won’t affect his stock as much as it would a player prized for his athleticism.
But at the same time, Barnett could have silenced some concerns about his athleticism at the combine. He did not. Those concerns will ride with him to his pro-day.
It is worth considering the stomach virus. Of course, it’s hard to gauge how seriously ill Barnett was, or how much it affected his performance. We’ll have to wait until Tennessee’s pro day to find out.
Barnett will have a good amount riding on his performance at the event. It could cost him a few spots in the draft, which would, in turn, cost him quite a few bucks.
Tennessee’s pro day takes place on March 31st.