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Chicago Bears 2016 Scouting Report: Tennessee DE Derek Barnett

Our Chicago Bears-focused scouting report on Tennessee DE Derek Barnett, one of the top pass rushers in this year's draft class and a Bears first-round sleeper candidate.

In yesterday's Bear Report Mock Draft v4.0, I outlined a realistic scenario in which the Chicago Bears select former Tennessee DE Derek Barnett with the third overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. 

A quick recap: historically, offensive tackle, quarterbacks and pass rushers are the only positions worthy of a top-three overall pick. There are no OTs worthy of even a Top 10 pick this year and there are serious question marks surrounding each of the top quarterbacks. 

If Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett and Stanford DE Solomon Thomas are the first two to come off the board, and the Bears are willing to pass on Alabama DL Jonathan Allen due to injury concerns, then Barnett, who is widely considered the third best edge rusher in the 2017 class, becomes the guy. 

If that scenario plays out, what would Barnett bring to Chicago's defense? Let's break down some 2016 game film to find out.

DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee (6-3, 259) 

Barnett earned All-SEC honors in all three of his seasons as a starter for the Volunteers. He was extremely productive each season: 2014 (SEC-leading 20.5 TFL, 10.0 sacks); 2015 (10.0 sacks); 2016 (18 TFL, 12.0 sacks). He earned numerous All-American honors for his performance in 2016. 


-Active hands, always looking to swat away blockers' arms and hands.

-Effective use of rips and swims.

-Can easily bend, dip and turn the corner. Stays low to avoid reach of blockers.

-Powerful inside rip. When used with leverage he can drive blockers into the opposing backfield.

-Adept at timing the snap count. Many of his sacks were the result of him anticipating the snap.

-Up-field player who is always looking to penetrate into opposing backfields (see play at 3:49 in film vs. Florida below)

-Good upper-body strength. Can anchor at the point of attack.

-Effective from both three- and two-point stance (see his sack at 5:55 of Georgia film below).

-Brick-wall tackler.

-Good arm extension to create separation. Can easily stack and shed when he locks his elbows.

-Was consistently double-teamed but still produced at an elite level (see strip sack at 8:24 vs. Georgia below).

-Too strong for arm blocks.

-Has experience dropping into short coverage. 


-Lacks elite lateral agility (see play at 3:54 vs. Alabama below)

-Inconsistent burst off the ball. Tends to lumber at times, particularly when he doesn’t time his jump correctly.

-Reliance on anticipating the snap count led to too many offside penalties.

-Must learn to maintain proper balance in short-area run defense.

-Ineffective spin move. Most pass rushes look the same.


Barnett played in the best conference in the nation and he dominated, which is extremely impressive. He not your classic speed rusher and he doesn't explode off the ball, yet he still produced elite numbers. 

As a pass rusher, Barnett is very good at timing the snap of the football and uses that to gain an instant advantage on opposing blockers. His upper-body strength makes him unblockable once he's parallel with offensive tackles. 

Barnett shows great flexibility when turning the corner and gets a good dip of his inside shoulder, which makes him even harder to stop once he's gained a head of steam. He also has active, strong hands that he uses to swat, rip and swim his way past blockers. 

He played mostly in three- and four-point stances in Tennessee's 4-3 defense but he does have experience lining up in a two-point stance, as well as dropping in coverage. 

Against the run, Barnett needs to become more disciplined, yet his ability to penetrate makes him very disruptive. He also has the girth and strength to anchor inside and fill gaps. If he were to add 20 pounds, he could easily play 5-technique in Chicago's 3-4 system. 

If the Bears were to select Barnett, he could line up at OLB in base sets and then put his hand in the dirt to rush off the edge in nickel formation, which the Bears use more than 60 percent of the time. 

Barnett lacks the off-the-charts athleticism of your typical Top-3-overall pass rusher but you can't ignore his production. In addition, I'm told scouts are much higher on Barnett than the media and there's a strong chance he'll be a Top-5 pick. 

If the scenario we outlined earlier in this piece plays out, don't be surprised if Barnett is the surprise pick of the first round when the Bears select him third overall. 

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