(Editor's Note: With less than one month until the start of the 2017 NFL Draft on April 27, the staff of DallasCowboys.com intends to preview the landscape of possible Cowboys draft picks – from the first round to the last. Today's featured player is Tennessee's Derek Barnett.)
Name: Derek Barnett
Honors: Barnett was first-team All-SEC and first-team All-America in his final season with the Vols, having registered 12 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He was also named All-Freshman SEC back in 2014, when he notched nine sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss as a true freshman.
Key Stat: Barnett lacks the amazing athleticism of fellow SEC pass rusher Myles Garrett, but his career resume speaks for itself. Over the past three years, he finished with 33 sacks and 52 tackles for loss – which is actually more than Myles Garrett's 31 sacks and 47 tackles for loss. In his final game at Tennessee, Barnett set the Volunteers' career record for sacks, which was previously held by Reggie White. That should give you some idea of his pass rushing ability.
Where He's Projected:That's a polarizing question. Draft experts seem to agree that Barnett is one of this year's best pass rushers, but his lack of top-notch athleticism tends to create a lot of varying opinions. You can find mock drafts that list Barnett as the No. 2 overall pick, just behind Myles Garrett. You can also find analysts who think he will sleep into the back half of the first round. It seems unlikely he'd fall all the way into the Cowboys' range – though perhaps it's not impossible.
How He Helps The Cowboys:The Cowboys aren't going to land Garrett – that much we know. But Barnett is easily on the shortlist of the best pass rushers in this draft class, along with Stanford's Solomon Thomas and Alabama's Jonathan Allen. If Dallas found a way to draft Barnett, he'd immediately become one of the best pass rushers on the roster – if not the best. He's got the ability to play both sides of the defensive line, and he'd be expected to produce right away.
Scout's Take:Barnett is a competitive player. He's physically tough and he keeps coming at you. His trio of motor, effort and pursuit is very good. Plays with some short-area quickness. Shows a burst to the quarterback. He has a great ability to play with his hand, which helps him get off blocks. He has some shock/pop to his punch. His upper body strength and power is his best trait. He has natural flexibility and can dip and stay low around the blocker. There are times where he is off balance and on the ground. Body control can be up and down. But he can anchor down at the point of attack and he can defeat blocks one-on-one. Works hard to defeat double-team blocks. One thing you notice is that he does not have many pass rush moves off the snap. His best move is when he can go arm-over and try to win off the snap. I will say that Barnett can get the quarterback down in the pocket. He doesn't have elite edge rusher ability, but he can win those one-on-one battles with quality defensive linemen. He broke the career sack record of Reggie White while at Tennessee with 33. Very durable throughout his career.