One NFL Scout Thinks Derek Barnett Could be NFL Draft’s Best Pass Rusher

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    The consensus among NFL scouts is that Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett is not only the best pass rusher in the class of 2017 NFL Draft prospects, but that he is also the best overall prospect in the class. But one scout contests that notion after looking at the film of one former Vol.

    Bucky Brooks of NFL.com’s Move the Sticks Podcast believes Derek Barnett might be the best pass rusher in the NFL Draft this year. Brooks claims Barnett’s production at Tennessee and what he saw on film could be enough to supplant Garrett as the best pass rusher in the class. At least in his eyes.

    Brooks notes that almost every scout has Garrett as their No. 1 pass rusher, but he states that “scouts paying close attention to SEC football and Barnett’s spectacular production should give the Tennessee star a serious look at the top of the draft.” Brooks goes on to rattle off some of Barnett’s stats while at Tennessee, namely his sack record, numerous tackles for loss, and him becoming the only player in SEC history with three-consecutive seasons with 10 or more sacks.

    While his numbers are great, Brooks goes on to detail why that may not even be the most impressive part of Barnett’s resume. This is what Brooks had to say about Barnett after evaluating his film:

    When I study the tape, I see a relentless pass rusher with an outstanding combination of skill and technique. Barnett is one of the best hand-to-hand combat fighters that I’ve watched in years, and his ability to win with a variety of slick maneuvers makes him nearly impossible to slow down off the edge. In addition to his superior hand skills, Barnett has the rare ability to win with finesse or power off the edge.

    Brooks would go on to add that Barnett has more than one move to get past an offensive lineman, claiming Barnett has both the power for bull rush moves and the quickness for more finesse maneuvers. “With Barnett also displaying a non-stop motor to complement his technically sound game, he’s like an old-school construction worker with a hard hat, lunch pail and a shiny toolbox,” Brooks said of Tennessee’s all-time sack leader.

    But Brooks isn’t the only one impressed with Barnett. Brooks went on to quote a couple more sources, an AFC executive and AFC scout director, about Barnett.

    “He’s not going to run a fast 40, but if you like tough, violent, high-motor players with production, you’ll love him,” said an AFC executive Brooks spoke to. “He kind of reminds me of a young Terrell Suggs coming out of Arizona State.”

    Then, the AFC scout director whom Brooks spoke to offered even more praise, claiming Barnett “is a great football player with a nasty temperament.”

    “I don’t understand why some scouts aren’t high on him,” said the AFC scout director, “but he can play for me any day.”

    Brooks concludes his analysis by comparing Barnett to Joey Bosa, a player who displayed similar qualities before last year’s draft. Many scouts questioned Bosa’s ability to make it in the NFL and produce at a high level, yet as Brooks points out, Bosa won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award last season. “With Barnett showing nearly identical skills, I believe the football world should pay closer attention to the best football player that no one is talking about.” Brooks concludes.

    Barnett, along with five other Vols, has been invited to the NFL combine that opens up March 3rd and concludes March 6th. Barnett can further prove himself there if he can test well. And if he does, expect his name to vault back into top-10 consideration.

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.